City's well water being trucked to the oilfield
Posted 9/29/10 (Wed)
Power Fuels trucks load up on Kenmare water at a hydrant
at the south end of Central AVenue near the train depot.
The water supply is no longer used by the city for drinking
water, but it works great for the oil well fracturing process.
City has collected $70,000 in water sales
By Caroline Downs
The quality of Kenmare’s city water improved drastically last December when water provided by the city of Minot started flowing through the taps, as distributed through the Northwest Area Water Supply pipeline.
However, the old water has found new life in the oil field, and the city has benefited from a few extra dollars in its coffers.
According to city public works director Mike Thompson, water from Kenmare’s aquifer may not meet federal arsenic standards, but it’s just right for the hydraulic fracturing procedures used to release oil locked in the Bakken formation.
Last spring, the city decided to make that water more accessible to the oil patch by dedicating the well to bulk water sales. “We put in a new water line and a new hydrant,” Thompson said, “which cost the city about $22,000.”
That cost has been recovered and then some, with bulk water sales generating an estimated $70,000 for the city by the end of August. In fact, August invoices alone accounted for over $20,000.
The city sold some bulk water in 2009, but the changes improved the access for trucks loading their tanks downtown at the south end of Central Avenue. Empty trucks enter Kenmare from Division Street or Central Avenue and make their way toward the square, turning south on 1st Avenue between BNC National Bank and Super Valu to drive up alongside the bright blue hydrant near the railroad tracks.
Twenty minutes and 6,000 gallons later, the driver is ready to leave town. “We’ve got good pressure,” Thompson said. “They’re filling at 300 gallons per minute.”
The trucks head up Central Avenue to the intersection with the county road, where 98 percent of them turn west, according to Thompson. “The bulk of this is going from here to the Blaisdell-Palermo area,” he said, “and some is going north. Most is being delivered within a 40-mile or so radius.”
The city charges $20 per thousand gallons of the untreated water, with each truckload bringing in $120. Most of the water is purchased by Power Fuels, a Minot-based company delivering water to rigs drilling in the Bakken formation. Thompson said customers also include other companies delivering water to the oil patch and the occasional agricultural sprayer.
He emphasized that the bulk water line is independent of the city’s other water lines. “That valve is closed to the city,” he said. “It’s non-potable water.”
Lignite and Powers Lake have also been selling water for hydraulic fracturing, but sales in some communities have been limited by the available supply. Thompson did not foresee any shortage of bulk water in Kenmare. “Our supply is tremendous,” he said.
He said that Power Fuels appreciates the Kenmare site for its convenience to drivers coming from Minot and the easy access to the hydrant with few corners. “The truckers like the 20-minute fill,” he added.
He noted the truck routes in Kenmare were paved with 10 inches of blacktop, as opposed to thinner pavement coatings on the residential streets.
So far, the loaded trucks have caused little or no damage to the streets, and the city has received very few complaints about the drivers. “As a whole, they’re really good to work with,” Thompson said.
City officials have discussed adding a building at the hydrant site for the truck drivers to use as a rest stop. Thompson laughed as he described the reaction from Power Fuels managers. “They told me to make it as small as possible,” he said. “They don’t want their drivers getting too comfortable in there!”
Income generated from the bulk water sales will be applied toward the costs of improvements made to Kenmare’s water system, including the upgrades made last fall to connect with the NAWS pipeline and the construction of a new water storage tank on the schedule for next year.
And while the money looks good, Thompson cautioned the city against becoming too dependent on the income. “It’s a little benefit from the oil,” he said. “It’s nothing we can bank on, so we’ll try to make a little money while we can. They haven’t slowed down much this summer, but it could all be over tomorrow.”
Anyone with further questions about the bulk water sales or with concerns about truck traffic on Division Street or Central Avenue should contact the city auditor’s office at 701-385-4232.