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Crews install new tanks in June at a saltwater disposal facility owned by White Owl Energy Services. A fire erupted at the site in January, and the company is rebuilding with steel tanks, coated to prevent corrosion, for better protection during incidents like lightning strikes. Submitted photo

North Dakota, oil industry look to study lightning at saltwater disposal sites in oil patch

BISMARCK — State officials and oil industry leaders want to commission a study of lightning strikes at saltwater disposal sites, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Lightning has hit saltwater facilities in western North Dakota at least four times since June. The strikes have caused fires, as well as spills of oil and brine.

Salty water known as brine comes up to the earth’s surface alongside oil and gas at well sites, and it’s carried by pipeline or truck to disposal wells where it’s processed through tanks and injected back underground for storage.

People familiar with the facilities say tanks made of fiberglass seem to be particularly susceptible to fires when lightning strikes.

The North Dakota Oil and Gas Research Council last week took an initial step to commission a study of the issue, deciding to pursue a request for proposals. The council, made up of state officials and representatives from the energy industry, identifies oil- and gas-related research projects to pursue. Up to $10 million in oil taxes fund its activities each biennium.

The state’s Industrial Commission, chaired by the governor, will need to grant approval to move forward. Industrial Commission Executive Director Karlene Fine said that could happen at its next meeting Aug. 28.

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