Daily Blog

Lady Well Power – New Generation Capacity to Meet Growing Williston Basin Demand

Three North Dakota electric utility companies are adding close to 800 MW of new generating capacity in the next five years. Unlike 68 percent of the State’s current generating capacity that uses coal fuel, the new plants will be powered by locally produced natural gas. The plants are needed in part to meet growing demand for power from Williston Basin oil and gas field services and infrastructure. A 2012 study sponsored by the North Dakota Transmission Authority estimates that demand in 45 Williston Basin counties will increase by 90 percent or 1000 MW between 2012 and 2017. Today we review regional power demand from the oil and gas industry.


The North Dakota Transmission Authority study mentioned above titled “ Williston Basin Oil & Gas Related Electric Load Growth Forecast “ analyzed current and future electric power demand in three drilling regions of the Williston Basin across North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. The results showed 2012 demand for the three state area was 1.2 Gigawatt (GW). Rising demand for electrical power over the next five years is projected to increase  demand in 2017 to 2.3 GW. That’s a hefty 89 percent increase. The main driver behind this hike in power demand is a significant increase in large commercial and industrial (C&I) electrical demand – growing from 432 Megawatt (MW) in 2012 to 1.3 GW in 2017.

Here are some of the expected demand sources that the study identified for oil and gas infrastructure:

Drilling and Completion: power to drill and complete a well comes from onsite generators built into the drilling rigs – so no grid requirement here.

After Completion: power from the utility company (grid-tied) is required for the primary recovery stage to lift fluid to the surface, separate the gas, oil, water and solids, compress and transport the oil and gas, and treat and dispose of brine water and processing gases. The study indicates that observed demand of a single well pump in 2012 was 20 kilowatt (kW) although pumps could use up to 40 kW. The growing number of wells creates the most significant increase in electric power demand over the period. The study assumed about 2,000 new wells drilled in 2012 and as many as 12,000 new wells in 2017.

Gas processing plants: a per-facility demand of approximately 15 MW for every 100 MMcf/d processing capability. We have described gas processing plants and expansion in the Williston Basin previously (see The Race is On and It Looks Like ONEOK).

Water Treatment: an estimated hourly demand of 75 kW for every 10,000 barrels of water treated.

Oil Pipelines: moving oil consumes 2 MW of power per 100 Mb/d along every 20 miles of pipeline. Booster pump stations increase oil pressure received through a main pipeline to transmit it to the next station or terminal. Using existing pipeline system and projected future infrastructure data as a baseline, 112 kW for every 20 miles of transmission line was determined.

Natural Gas Compressor Stations: transporting natural gas from the wellhead to a processing plant through a pipeline requires placing compressor stations along the length of the pipeline to maintain pressure. Compressor stations use pumps ranging from 450 kW to 1.2 MW.

Rail Loading Facilities: electric loads for rail loading facilities range from 450 kW to 1.5 MW. We described the 20 new rail terminals built in North Dakota in “A Plethora of Rail Terminals in the Williston Basin”.

Refineries: there are plans for at least two and possibly three new small refineries in North Dakota that will refine Bakken oil to meet increased local demand for diesel (see If You’ve Got the Money We’ve Got the Crude). These refineries are small ~ 20 Mb/d but will require about 5 MW of power each.

Humans: the expanding workforce required to construct and operate new oil and gas infrastructure requires housing that increases residential electric power demand.

Join Backstage Pass to Read Full Article

Learn More