Whenever a certain part of the world is found to have an abundance of needed natural resources, there is usually a rush of entrepreneurs all seeking the opportunity to be a part of it. That’s certainly been true of the Williston Basin and specifically the Bakken Shale area, as oil and gas companies have moved into the region to take advantage of the plentiful resources. Besides the opportunities for oil and gas operators, the region’s relative lack of infrastructure makes it a prime location for midstream companies, as well.
One of those companies looking to make a big splash in the Bakken is New Frontier Midstream, a wholly owned subsidiary of Texas-based energy firm Eckard Global. President Rodney Wren says the parent company’s owner and CEO, Troy Eckard, has a lot of experience in the energy arena and has drilled more than 450 wells in his career. After getting involved in some drilling in the Bakken, Eckard recognized the need for midstream infrastructure in the region and established New Frontier to fill that need.
As a midstream company, New Frontier’s focus is on crude oil and natural gas gathering, processing, treating and water disposal. “In areas where current production is restricted by the lack of gathering and transportation infrastructure, producers, mineral owners and the states are not realizing the full value for the natural gas and natural gas liquids due to flaring and venting,” the company explains. “New Frontier Midstream’s objective is to mitigate this situation.”
Although New Frontier is just getting started in the Bakken region, Wren says the company already is gathering some substantial momentum that should lead to big success in the near future. “We are now just redlining contracts to get our first two projects off the ground,” Wren says. “We’ll be doing business for the big players up there.”
Wren says the leadership and vision of Eckard have put New Frontier in a good position for success. He says that when he first came onboard at New Frontier, he found that Eckard had a lot of in-depth knowledge about the Bakken play. Eckard tracks the permits and rig movement monthly. In addition, Eckard has non-operated interest in 126 wells throughout the heart of the Bakken play in North Dakota providing Eckard with valuable information on how the wells are drilled and completed. With that level of information in hand, New Frontier has been able to identify areas in which infrastructure is underdeveloped but drilling activity has increased.
Not only does the company have the right information about where its services may be needed, but Wren says New Frontier also has the agility and flexibility to act on that information before many of its competitors can. “Because of the size of our company, we are quick to react,” he says.
New Frontier has several other advantages, too. Wren says that another of Eckard Global’s subsidiaries, Kinetica Partners in Houston, is acquiring more than 2,000 miles of offshore pipeline and anticipates Kinetica will take over operations of these systems mid-2013. Through another joint venture, the company also owns 3,200 miles of pipelines in Texas and New Mexico that it will convert to gas-gathering lines. With numerous big-name customers already being serviced in the Gulf of Mexico, Wren says New Frontier has considerable midstream experience to bring to the Bakken area.
Wren says he brings a personal understanding of the producer’s point of view, having spent more than 33 years in areas such as onshore midstream asset management, development and overall business implementation.
Wren also served as a principal at Bishop Pipeline Corp., a natural gas marketing and gathering company, and as president of an exploration and processing company that specialized in drilling horizontal wells. Wren says his particular combination of experiences in the industry makes him more than qualified to talk to producers on their level. He says this has been helpful in getting the company’s foot in the door with customers.
“I understand the producers’ concerns,” Wren explains. “I’ve been in those meetings and I know the answers that they’re looking for from a midstream company.”
Another way in which New Frontier has an advantage over other midstream companies in the area is in the company’s strategy for laying pipelines. Wren explains that New Frontier is focusing on laying parallel lines for natural gas, crude oil and salt water at the same time. By building these lines simultaneously, he says, New Frontier can alleviate the impact of inclement weather on the producers production during the winter months.
Another important advantage of pipeline connections for the state, local communities and the producer is the reduction of truck traffic, which has become an issue in many areas of the Bakken Play.
In addition to the pipelines, New Frontier also is developing two salt water disposal wells in North Dakota and one in Montana. Adding the capability to dispose of salt water brings New Frontier closer to becoming a full-service midstream company, Wren says. “One thing about those wells is that the first and last barrel that comes out of those wells is water,” he says.
Even with the experience and capabilities New Frontier brings to the midstream market in the Bakken, Wren says the company’s greatest obstacle is getting its name out there with so many midstream companies already operating in the Bakken Shale.
“The biggest challenge is that we’re the new kid in town,” he says.
In order to convince producers that New Frontier could be a valuable partner to them, Wren says the company goes out of its way to show them the company’s assets and management experience. He says New Frontier strives to be as transparent as possible with potential customers, showing them the company’s business plans and writing up clear, equitable contracts, which gives customers peace of mind that they will be treated fairly.
With all of the advantages that New Frontier brings to the marketplace, Wren says the company is confident that it will become a big name in the Bakken play within a short period of time, and it has a number of projects underway that show how far the company has come in a relatively short time.
For instance, New Frontier is in the permitting stage on a 70-mile natural gas liquids line between Montana and North Dakota that will connect to the company’s cryogenic processing facility in Stark County, N.D. That facility will service the emerging shale play in that region of the state.
Wren says the company has another project in the works in Montana that should be underway by spring 2013. The Montana project will also include a cryogenic processing facility, natural gas liquids line and the required infrastructure to transport the producer’s hydrocarbons to market.
Wren says that initiatives and new projects such as these indicate the positive direction New Frontier is headed, and bode well for the company’s future in 2013 and beyond.
Wren says the company’s strategy for the next few years includes a lot of expansion, and that the Bakken Shale area provides New Frontier with plenty of opportunities for that growth.
New Frontier will grow through building gathering and processing facilities, acquisitions and strategic joint ventures, Wren explains. With the midstream work that’s available in the area, the company expects to be busy.
“We see a lot of growth for New Frontier up here,” Wren says.