A new natural gas liquefaction plant is slated to come online this summer in North Dakota to reduce the flaring of gas in the Bakken Formation and provide fuel for Bakken oil and gas operations. The developer, Prairie Companies LLC subsidiary North Dakota LNG, announced earlier this month that the plant would provide an initial 10,000 gallons per day (gal/d) of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and could expand to 66,000 gal/d. Assuming a 10% processing loss, the plant would take in a maximum of 6 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) once expanded. In 2012, North Dakota vented and flared 218 MMcf/d of natural gas because of record-high oil production and insufficient pipeline takeaway capacity for natural gas produced as a byproduct.

Hess Corporation will supply the natural gas for liquefaction at Prairie's Tioga natural gas processing location. After the LNG is produced, it will be sent via truck to storage sites at drilling locations, where – once regasified – it can be used to power rigs and hydraulic fracturing operations as well as LNG vehicles. LNG itself cannot burn; in its liquefied state, its temperature is minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit. However, as a liquid, it takes up only 1/600th of its volume as a gas, so LNG is an excellent form to store or transport natural gas.

Currently, most drilling operations run on diesel, and converting to natural gas provides potentially significant cost savings given the current differential between diesel and natural gas prices. In 2012, EIA estimated that nationally oil and gas companies consumed more than 5 million gal/d of diesel in their operations, representing a significant expense.

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Natural gas spot prices fell throughout the United States. The Henry Hub decreased by 42 cents per million British thermal units (MMBtu), moving from $4.83/MMBtu last Wednesday to $4.41 yesterday.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex), the June contract fell by 37 cents/MMBtu, beginning the report week at $4.740/MMBtu last Wednesday and settling at $4.367/MMBtu yesterday.

Active oil and natural gas drilling rigs totaled 1,855 as of May 9, up 1 rig from the previous week, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc. The natural gas-directed rig count was flat for the second consecutive week, while the oil-directed rig count increased by 1, to 1,528. The oil rig count is currently 116 higher than this week last year, and the gas rig count is 27 lower.