Murphy’s Law 2021 #45 Energy Development Transmission Committee

August 5, 2021

This committee usually goes to the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) every other year or so to see what they have come up with. The EERC is housed on the University of North Dakota campus in Grand Forks and has been in existence since 1951. They have done a lot lately on coal, oil and gas research to further the technologies in the Bakken. Successes in those fields have benefited agriculture by providing huge tax revenues turned into road and bridge investments and allowing other funds to exist which have helped Ag producers. The EERC has been working for years on ammonia production for fertilizers from various sources. Hydrogen is also being looked at for powering vehicles on the farm and for transporting commodities. As a research institution, they have to take ideas, foster them and test them, then hope to be able to apply them and bring them to market. As you are probably aware, many new ideas fail to become base hits, a few are doubles and there is the occasional home run. One idea for soybean farmers to look forward to that was mentioned today in testimony is that besides the ADM/Marathon play; there is one also being worked on whereby jet fuel is manufactured from soybean oil. I had not heard of that one.

A few updates from today’s testimony include; Oil production in North Dakota is pretty flat at between 1 and 1.1 million barrels per day, down from 1.2 barrels pre Covid. It is expected to stay that way for the rest of the year even though the current $70 oil price is much higher than the $50 mark the state budgeted for. There have been a couple more drilling rigs (now 23) working now, but no big growth seen. Workforce shortages are tough in that industry as well. Another prediction is that gas production as a gas to oil ratio coming out of our wells is mushrooming. Beginning near 1 to 1, it has risen to about 2.6 to 1 as the Bakken matures. If studies from the 1990s wells hold true, the ratio could go to 6 to 1. Given that our natural gas in North Dakota is also extremely rich and getting richer (propane, ethane, methane, etc.) these two trends give ND budgets much hope in decades to come. Enhanced oil recovery techniques will pump CO2 down previously drilled wells to force out more oil and gas. We will need more pipelines for our gas and could use a factory or 10 to make fertilizers, plastics, etc.