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Company taking commitments for major natural gas pipeline through N.D.

BISMARCK - Commitments are now being accepted for a proposed $650 million pipeline that officials say would move the equivalent of 40 to 50 percent of North Dakota's current natural gas production to market and help reduce flaring in the state.

BISMARCK - Commitments are now being accepted for a proposed $650 million pipeline that officials say would move the equivalent of 40 to 50 percent of North Dakota's current natural gas production to market and help reduce flaring in the state.

WBI Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Bismarck-based MDU Resources Group, launched the "open season" phase of the project Thursday to seek long-term commitments from shippers for capacity on the 24-inch Dakota Pipeline.

The pipeline would snake 375 miles from McKenzie County to an interconnection hub planned for northwestern Minnesota, just across the border from Emerson, Manitoba, said David Goodin, president and CEO of MDU Resources.

"It will be the single largest project in our company's history, size-wise and dollar-wise," he said.

WBI Energy's original pipeline route announced last May ran through central North Dakota to a connection near Moorhead. But feedback from potential users prompted the company to move the route so it could connect to three other pipelines rather than only one, Goodin said.

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The pipeline would initially ship up to 400 million cubic feet per day of processed natural gas, which could be increased to 500 million cubic feet per day based on shipper demand. North Dakota natural gas production averaged nearly 1.09 billion cubic feet per day in November, a record high.

"So in terms of scale, this is a big deal," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said of the pipeline.

About 30 percent of North Dakota's natural gas production was flared in November. Goodin said the pipeline project "is completely in line" with recommendations released Wednesday by the North Dakota Petroleum Council's flaring task force to boost natural gas capture to 85 percent in two years, 90 percent in six years and 95 percent eventually.

Had it been in place at the time, Goodin said the proposed pipeline "would have been another strong source of supply" for the thousands of Xcel Energy customers in eastern North Dakota, northwest Minnesota and western Wisconsin who were asked to turn down their thermostats last weekend to conserve natural gas after a TransCanada supply pipeline in southern Manitoba exploded.

WBI Energy's open-season commitment period lasts for 120 days. Goodin estimated it will take roughly two years to go through the permitting, environmental assessment and siting processes, and another six to 12 months for construction.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will oversee siting of the pipeline, he said.

WBI Energy President and CEO Steven Bietz said the pipeline - which hasn't been ordered yet - could be in service by late 2017.

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at mnowatzki@forumcomm.com .

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