Valley Expansion delivers warmth and supports growth

If you grew up on the Northern Plains, where the icy winter wind whips across fields of snow and down darkening city streets, where your cheeks burn from the cold even as you turn your back to the gale and lean your way toward the warm lights of home, then you know what it is to feel frozen.

And you appreciate the value of warmth.

Of rushing into a toasty house and slamming the door against the cold. Of feeling the frost melt off your eyelashes as you unwrap your scarf, pull off your hat and move toward the fireplace.

That reliable, dependable warmth is the business WBI Energy is in. The Bismarck, North Dakota-based company provides the infrastructure to deliver natural gas to heat homes and power businesses.

Starting next spring, the company will be building a significant new project in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. The Valley Expansion project will connect WBI Energy’s existing natural gas system near Mapleton, North Dakota, with the Viking Gas Transmission Company system near Felton, Minnesota.

Construction of the 38-mile, 16-inch-diameter line is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2018.

“This has been a great project from the start for a couple of major reasons,” said Dave Goodin, president and CEO of WBI Energy. “First, it’s going to enhance supply security during the winter heating months for our customers between Bismarck and Mapleton. And it also provides a source of natural gas to support industrial and commercial growth in the Red River Valley. It’s a win-win, and I think that’s why we’ve seen so much interest in it.”

The project secured capacity commitments early on, both for residential use and from manufacturers. It’s designed to transport 40 million cubic feet of gas per day to the Valley and beyond, and through increased compression could be expanded in the future. The natural gas will be able to flow east or west to satisfy demand.

“Our plant runs on natural gas transported by WBI Energy, and the Valley Expansion will increase the reliability of our supply,” said Ryan Thorpe, chief operating officer of Tharaldson Ethanol Plant I, LLC, in Casselton, North Dakota. “That’s important to us as we continue to expand. Our plant this year will produce about 185 million gallons of ethanol, and we employ 55 people. A dependable supply of natural gas is critical to our business, so we definitely support the Valley Expansion Project and look forward to a timely completion.”

The project is scheduled to go into service in November 2018. It is being overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. WBI Energy has submitted a proposed route to the FERC, has conducted civil, cultural, and biological surveys along the route, and has had multiple meetings with landowners and the public. The FERC anticipates completing an environmental assessment by the end of September and issuing it for public comment.

“It’s been a good process and positive from the start,” Goodin said. “The work our team is doing is eventually going to heat people’s homes and support business development, which is very rewarding. We’re excited about the Valley Expansion.”

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