Natural Gas Availability in Wahpeton is Vital

Constraints on natural gas supplies in Wahpeton have caused concerns at the ProGold plant and for other major users of natural gas in the area. Whenever the temperature drops below 20 degrees on winter days it is common for Great Plains Natural Gas (local supplier) to notify Cargill and other major users to curtail use or dial back production.

This situation has been getting steadily worse and has the potential become critical in coming years.

Background: Natural gas is supplied to Wahpeton through a 60s era 8” pipe that originates in Vergas, MN, goes to Fergus Falls and then is reduced to a 6” pipe feeding the Wahpeton – Breckenridge community. As use of natural gas along the line expanded, pressures were increased to meet the growing demand. Presently, the line’s capacity is tapped out. And because of safety concerns, federal guidelines may cause pressure on the line to be reduced at a future date and dramatically exacerbate the situation.

Discussions within the community have been ongoing for several years, but no resolution is in sight. Several options have been considered – all of which would require a firm commitment over a period of years to guarantee the cost of construction of a new supply line. More importantly, any solution should have the capacity to serve future needs and growth (residential, commercial, and industrial) of the community. Additionally, any new supply for the area would serve as a backup supply for Fergus Falls should the existing pipeline go down.

As you can see, any solution provides a significant benefit to the area and other customers of Great Plains Natural Gas. Yet, proposals to pay for the majority of the project rely on guarantees of current major users at a significant increase to their current cost of natural gas.

Two scenarios are important to keep in mind. The first is simply to provide enough natural gas to maintain operations at the ProGold plant and meet the current needs of other major users with nearly all of the cost of increased supply shouldered by those users. The second scenario involves the addition of increased demand, whether it is another industrial user, processing plant, or an expansion of any of the existing plants currently served by Great Plains Natural Gas. In this situation, the cost of the supply project would be spread among existing and new users, but it would still result in a substantial increase for current users if the solution were to provide for future needs of the community.

To further complicate the situation, Cargill has less than four years remaining on their lease with ProGold. Any new pipeline would take approximately two years to build, which means Cargill could not and ProGold LLC would not guarantee payment for the cost of construction.

Meanwhile, we are all aware that over 20% of natural gas resulting from oil development in western ND is being flared. It would seem that the State of ND has an interest in the future of the ProGold plant, the community of Wahpeton and others like it. Hopefully, we can engage them in finding a solution to this dilemma.