About the Study

The last decade has seen growth in the oil industry at a rate that is unprecedented in the history of North Dakota. There are over 12,000 oil wells in the state, with oil production undergoing a nearly fivefold increase since 2008. Saltwater (“produced water”) is also produced along with the oil in volumes comparable to oil production. Industry has installed nearly 23,000 miles of gathering pipeline to move these tremendous volumes of fluids from the wellhead to various processing facilities. While the vast majority of the fluids moving through the state’s pipeline infrastructure reach their destination without incident, the ever-increasing size of the system means that even low incident rates may result in a greater number of spills and attendant volumes in a given year. With that in mind, public concern has been growing in North Dakota about the effects of spills of oil and produced water on agriculture, public health, and the environment.

To address those concerns, Governor Jack Dalrymple and the North Dakota legislature passed North Dakota House Bill 1358 (HB1358). The purpose of this legislation was to address public concern over what was perceived as a growing problem with oil and produced water spills in the state as a result of increased exploration and production activity in the oil industry. The bill sought to direct state funding for cleanup efforts and research efforts intended to minimize the number of spills and the volume of fluids spilled.

One of the key elements of HB1358 serving to address many of the public’s concerns was a mandate for the EERC to conduct a study of the oil and produced water gathering pipeline network in North Dakota. Specifically, Section 8 of HB1358 directed the EERC to analyze the existing regulations on construction and monitoring of crude oil and produced water pipelines, determine the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of requiring leak detection and monitoring technology on new and existing pipeline systems, and provide a report with recommendations to the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) and the Energy Development and Transmission Committee (EDTC) by December 1, 2015. The intent of this study was to assess ways to improve the performance of produced water and crude oil pipelines in North Dakota, with the purpose of supporting NDIC’s decisions regarding possible adoption of administrative rules impacting pipeline safety and integrity. The EERC initiated the study in June 2015, in partnership with the NDIC Oil and Gas Research Program (OGRP) and in compliance with HB1358. This report represents the culmination of that study.

Click here to read the full study(Phase I).

HB 1358 further directed the EERC to conduct a field evaluation of leak detection and monitoring systems under real-world conditions. The results of this field evaluation provide valuable understanding and data about LDS performance on gathering pipelines, supporting efforts to allow monetization of North Dakota’s vast petroleum resources while protecting public safety and the environment.

Click here to read the field evaluation report (Phase II)

For more information on the pipeline study please contact John Harju, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships.