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Dennis Hill

Energy review highlights domestic production

By Dennis Hill

North Dakota’s energy boom was in the national spotlight last month, when members of the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) Taskforce held a stakeholder meeting at the National Energy Center of Excellence on the campus of Bismarck State College.

The taskforce was appointed by President Obama to provide energy policy analysis and modeling, and to engage stakeholders in seeking ways to eliminate infrastructure constraints in the region. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx were among the administration officials who attended the meeting to learn from stakeholders and to hear presentations by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer.

Understanding the need for more power in the region was one topic of discussion. North Dakota’s rural electric cooperatives were represented by Claire Vigessa, general manager of Upper Missouri Power Cooperative, Sydney, Mont., and by Mike Eggl, senior vice president with Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck. Both stressed that demand for electric power in the region is growing dramatically. For the 10 Montana and North Dakota distribution co-ops that serve in the region, Vigessa noted their electric demand in 2014 was about 800 megawatts (MW). That number is to be double by 2016. To help supply this rapid growth, Basin Electric is building a new 200-mile-long, 345-kilovolt transmission line from Beulah to Tioga, and new natural gas-fired generation plants in the region.

The other stakeholders at the meeting provided context to the rapid development. Here are a few statistics of note:

  • Since 2008, U.S. oil production has grown rapidly, reaching more than 8.4 million barrels per day in April 2014. The domestic oil boom is due primarily to new production of light sweet crude in North Dakota and Texas (which together now account for nearly half of the total domestic crude production).
  • In May of this year, North Dakota exceeded one million barrels of oil per day, almost 12 percent of the total U.S. crude production.
  • With the boom of production from the Bakken, pipeline operators have increased crude oil pipeline capacity from 200,000 barrels per day in 2013 to more than 400,000 barrels per day this year.
  • As daily production exceeded pipeline capacity, rail transport picked up a major portion of the increased volume. By April 2014, rail comprised about 63 percent of total oil shipments from the Bakken (some 630,000 barrels per day).

Every indicator points to a decades-long development of this domestic oil and gas resource.

The QER Taskforce was encouraged by the stakeholders to provide as much regulatory certainty as possible so these resources can be developed responsibly, safely and on an environmentally sustainable basis. That will provide great value as our nation develops and uses more and more domestic resources to secure its energy future.

Dennis Hill, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan. Comments can be mailed to Dennis Hill, NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727 or by email to


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