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Plain Talk: Moving North Dakota's oil industry toward being carbon neutral

Two companies working in the oil and gas industry talk about an initiative, funded by the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which has the potential to help meet Governor Doug Burgum's goal of a carbon-neutral state.

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A pumpjack is pictured at an oil well in western North Dakota. Dickinson Press file photo
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Earlier this year Gov. Doug Burgum raised a lot of eyebrows in the political world by announcing a goal for North Dakota's carbon-based industries, including oil and coal, to become carbon neutral.

Can we do it?

There are no magic bullets to achieving that goal, but there are some promising endeavors. On this episode of Plain Talk I discussed one of those with Kevin Black, CEO of Creedence Energy Services, and Marty Shumway, the technical services director of Locus Bio-Energy Solutions.

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Shumway's company has developed a biosurfactant, that could be made from agricultural products like canola and sugar from right here in North Dakota, that, in some instances, has improved the output of older oil wells by as much as 70%.

A pilot program to use the biosurfactant was funded by the North Dakota Industrial Commission, and the potential return on that investment, as measured by tax revenues for the State of North Dakota, can be calculated in the billions.

That's a big deal for the oil industry, where more oil from any given well means more profits, but it's a big deal from the perspective of lowering the environmental footprint of the oil industry as well. More from any one well means fewer wells are needed. It also means each well uses less energy to develop.

Energy development itself uses energy that often comes from carbon-based sources like oil or coal.

Again, there is no one thing we can do to achieve Gov. Burgum's goal of carbon-neutral oil and gas industries, but there are many small things, and this endeavor seems to be one of them.

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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