Council Wants to Study Lightning Fires
The North Dakota Oil and Gas Research Council voted this week to develop a request for proposals that would look into the reason behind a surge in lightning strikes on saltwater disposal sites.
Lightning strikes have sparked fires at about two dozen disposal sites in the state over the years, but five of those have occurred just this year, according to Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources.
"It was our thought that it would be worthwhile to put together an RFP to ask for research proposals that would look into why there is such a plethora of lightning strikes on disposal wells and particularly fiberglass tanks," Helms said. "What's causing that? If we can get to the bottom of it, then what are potential measures or best management practices that could prevent it?"
The council voted to authorize up to $300,000 for such as study, and would not require a matching private contribution which it typically does for other research grants. Approval of a grant if one is awarded would come from the ND Industrial Commission.
Helms said he's received two proposals from companies that "claim to have the cause and effect all worked out," but doesn't have any basis to determine whether it's accurate. He said the most recent lightning strike was in "a tank battery basically surrounded by steel tanks, and it took the fiberglass tank."
"The incidence of it is growing rapidly, so we're concerned," Helms said. "We anticipate expanding the number of disposals by two or threefold, so we're going to build a whole bunch more targets out there."
Council member Ron Day said the solution may be to avoid or prohibit the use of fiberglass tanks.
"It may have something to do with static buildup," Day said. "When you pass a fluid through fiberglass tanks, it's huge, and as you increase your flow rates, you increase the static buildup."
Helms said there may not be an answer, "maybe it's just a bad year" for lightning strikes. He noted that lightning had recently struck the DMR building in Bismarck, knocking out its handicap door opener.
OGRC Endorses WDEA's Wise Roads Project
Members of the Oil and Gas Research Council voted this week to recommend approval of a $250,000 grant application submitted by WDEA for its Wise Roads weather station project.
Wise Roads (Weather Information System to Effectively Reduce Oilfield Delays and Disruption) is being developed in partnership with the North Dakota Ag Weather Network (
) at NDSU. The project is a response to concerns expressed by the oil industry that weight limit restrictions placed on gravel roads after rain events covered more roads than necessary. The idea is to install weather monitoring stations throughout the oil-producing counties to provide local governments with weather information, especially precipitation data, to help guide road restriction decisions.
The grant request now goes to the North Dakota Industrial Commission for its consideration. WDEA has already committed $250,000 to the project, installed 10 new weather stations in late June, and plans to install 15 more this fall. If NDIC approves the grant, WDEA will be able to double the scope of Wise Roads, adding 25 more western North Dakota weather stations next spring and summer.