New forms are now being accepted that will allow oil and gas companies that ship Bakken crude by pipeline to use their compliance with shipping contracts as proof they are maintaining correct vapor pressures, said officials at the North Dakota Division of Oil and Gas.

The forms are among several changes the North Dakota Industrial Commission approved for enforcement of state’s vapor pressure rules, which will be phased in over the rest of 2019.

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While the process is still being phased in, the new process has the potential to identify and correct noncompliant vapor pressure much more quickly than before.

There was an incident where a company rejected a shipment of Bakken crude that appeared to exceed vapor pressure standards, said Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. It turned out to involve a sampling error, but, nonetheless, the company notified both the operator and the Industrial Commission that it was discontinuing shipments until the discrepancy could be corrected.

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“We deployed a measurement specialist who went out with the North Dakota gas operator and the pipeline people to retest it,” Helms said. “It turns out that it was an improper sampling procedure by the pipeline company. But, even though it turned out to be human error, they didn’t just write it off or ignore it. They notified the Industrial Commission and the operator of the problem, and then notified the operator and the Industrial Commission that they were cutting off shipments until the matter was resolved.”

The potential error was identified far more quickly than the old method would have allowed, Helms said.

Helms has also talked to a number of midstream companies who have said they measure vapor pressure at least once a day, and others they measure multiple times per day. That means the Division of Oil and gas should be able to get a lot more testing than its quarterly program could yield, and better management long-term.

“As long as we do proper inspection and enforcement of the forms and the people who are claiming to impose pipeline tariffs,” Helms said. “And as long as they know there is an inspection and enforcement component, to make sure the information is accurate.”

Helms said the old standards will be enforced until the transition to the new regulatory structure is complete.

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