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By Dale Wetzel, Associated Press Writer, Published January 27 2010

Fund to explore use for wasted gas

BISMARCK – Money from a North Dakota research fund will be used to explore whether wasted natural gas may be used to provide electricity for oil producers and rural electric cooperatives.

Rapid expansion of North Dakota’s oil production has also boosted the state’s output of natural gas, which is a byproduct of oil production.

State Department of Mineral Resources statistics show a 63 percent increase in natural gas production in the last five years. Oil output has more than doubled during the same period, to more than 245,000 barrels a day.

Construction of a network of pipelines to gather and ship the natural gas have not kept up with that growth. As a result, natural gas is often flared, or burned off, at the well site.

In 2008, more than 30 percent of North Dakota’s natural gas production was flared. North Dakota energy industry officials say the percentage has dropped to just over 10 percent. The U.S. Energy Department says the national average is less than 1 percent.

North Dakota’s Industrial Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, has approved a $375,000 grant to study whether raw gas produced at an oil well site can be used to fuel an electrical generator to provide power for the well operator.

Any surplus power could be sold to the rural electric cooperative that serves the area, the proposal says.

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