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US energy chief finds Bakken tour informative

Hess Corp. well completions superintendent Marvin Romkee, left, displays a gel produced from guar, sand and water that is used in hydraulic fracturing at Hess facilities near Tioga. Watching him are, from left, Chief Operating Officer Greg Hill, Chief Executive Officer John Hess, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Sen. Heidi Heitcamp, D-N.D. Kathleen J. Bryan / Forum News Service

TIOGA, N.D. – U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said a tour of Hess Corp.’s Bakken facilities Saturday allowed him to see the process “beginning to end” and understand what is required to efficiently produce shale oil with a minimal footprint.

Moniz wrapped up his two-day visit to North Dakota with a tour of the company’s exploration and production facilities near Tioga.

His previous visit in 1999 took place before the current boom, which has made the state the nation’s second-leading oil producer.

Accompanied Saturday by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp,

D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., Moniz saw firsthand a drilling rig, a hydraulic fracturing site and the Tioga Gas Plant.

“I led a big study on natural gas and shale a few years ago, but remarkably I had not actually been to an active operation, and when you see it, when you see its scale, when you see the challenges, it makes a very different impression. That’s going to be very informative as we go forward,” Moniz said.

In the Treatment Monitoring Vehicle, which served as command center at the fracking site, Moniz viewed screens that displayed data such as pump pressures of the sands used during the hydraulic fracturing process.

Marvin Romkee, well completions supervisor, showed the group samples of white sand. When combined with water and guar, a bean grown predominantly in India and widely used as a food additive, it produces a gel that allows the cracks in shale rock to stay open when it is fracked, said Gerbert Schoonman, vice president for the Bakken facilities.

The last stop on the tour showcased Hess’ gas plant, which started up in 1954, three years after the company drilled the first production well in North Dakota.

An expansion this year more than doubled its operational capacity. It is now one of the largest producers of propane and butane in the state, said director of infrastructure Warren Walhaug.

The plant’s expansion will help Hess achieve its goal of reducing natural gas flaring to 10 percent by 2017, which Moniz noted.

Chief Executive Officer John Hess, who led the delegation on the tour, cited both senators as a “voice of reason” for energy policy in North Dakota and the U.S.

“We’re lucky to have both these senators as voices for the growth of energy, but also for energy security,” Hess said.

He called Moniz one of the most “knowledgeable and capable energy secretaries we’ve ever seen.”

“We’re glad that you got to see firsthand the proud footprint of Hess in North Dakota,” Hess said. “... It’s really a dream come true that we’re one of the top oil and gas producers in the state, producing over 90,000 barrels a day of oil equivalent now, going up in the next several years to 150,000 barrels a day.”