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Renewable Accounts: Big Pipe Could Mean Big Opportunities

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David Ripplinger, Bioproducts and Bioenergy Economist and Assistant Professor, NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics David Ripplinger, Bioproducts and Bioenergy Economist and Assistant Professor, NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics
The infrastructure to collect natural gas and move it is not fully developed, as evidenced by the continued flaring of gas. However, this is expected to change soon and in a big way.

By David Ripplinger, Bioproducts and Bioenergy Economist and Assistant Professor

NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics

One of the activities I’m regularly involved with is siting new facilities. It’s fun to pull down a map, push pins, draw lines and evaluate communities against prioritized criteria.

Among the most critical criterion for siting new biorefineries and other bio-based processing facilities is natural gas availability. This is a surprise to many, but the reason is simple: Natural gas is a relatively inexpensive and green fuel.

For thermal energy that biorefineries need to convert energy from its original form, for example corn, to one that is more readily useable, such as ethanol, natural gas almost always is the best choice. Given the development of domestic oil and gas in tight formations, this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

While North Dakota has tremendous natural gas resources in the form of associated gas, the infrastructure to collect it and move it is not fully developed, as evidenced by the continued flaring of gas. However, this is expected to change soon and in a big way.

WBI Energy, a unit of Montana Dakota Utilities, announced an open season on gas at the end of January for the new Dakota pipeline that will span the northern tier of North Dakota. The pipeline, which will be 24 inches for most of its length, will move 400 million cubic feet of gas per day. That’s enough to heat 1.3 million homes. There’s no other way to put it: That’s a big pipe.

While most of the gas in the Dakota pipeline will make its way to major markets after it reaches the terminus at Emerson, Manitoba, there’s no reason some of it can’t find its home at a facility in the north country.

In terms of facility siting, when built, the Dakota pipeline will provide a large boost to the viability of sites between North Dakota Highway 2 and the Canadian border. Some of these areas already are served with natural gas pipelines, but these pipes are smaller and have little to no extra capacity. The Dakota Pipeline will change natural gas availability from a factor that excluded sites in the region to a distinct advantage.

McHenry, Pierce, Towner, Cavalier and Pembina counties, opportunity just knocked on your door. A natural gas super highway is being built near your community. That big pipe could mean big opportunity.


NDSU Agriculture Communication – Feb. 12, 2013

Source:David Ripplinger, (701) 231-5265, david.ripplinger@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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