Tuesday, August 21, 2012

One of My Hot Buttons: Cold Weather Complaints


November 29, 2012: The Bismarck Tribune reports that N-Flex has gotten the $1 million grant
A $1 million state grant has been pledged to a New York company seeking to convert wasted natural gas into much-needed farm fertilizer by using portable plants that can be moved from well to well throughout North Dakota’s oil patch.
The state Industrial Commission approved the grant to N-Flex LLC last week, under conditions that include financing commitments from investors.
Company founder Neil Cohn said Wednesday that Easton, Md.-based Beowulf Energy LLC acquired rights to N-Flex and will provide capital and engineering for the project.
Original Post

A New York company wants to field test portable natural gas unit to make fertilizer:
Neil Cohn, founder of the project’s developer, N-Flex LLC, said it would test the use of a portable unit to take unprocessed natural gas and use it to make anhydrous ammonia. The unit would be located at the well site.

The technology has been in use for years, Cohn said. However, it needs field testing in North Dakota’s harsh climate, and it is unusual to use unprocessed natural gas to make fertilizer, he said.
If I recall correctly, the entire field test would cost about $4 million. The company has venture capitalists backing it. The company is seeking a $1 million grant from the state. NDIC will made the recommendation/decision.

Right now, NDIC has delayed making a decision ("$1 million is real cash," said one member) while looking for more information from N-Flex, LLC.


However, a couple of things:

It will take strong leadership and vision to move the state forward in developing in-state opportunities rather than simply shipping all the oil and natural gas out of state for others to process. (Think United Pulse.)

I'm getting a bit tired of the cliche, "North Dakota's harsh climate." Give me a break. If you want to talk about harsh climate, talk about Alaska, Canada, the Falklands, the Arctic. The climate in North Dakota is only harsh if one considers the temperature during two months of January. Unless N-Flex is talking about mosquitoes. If one is talking about terrorists, roadside bombs, permitoriums, etc. North Dakota's climate is not a bit harsh compared to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Florida, New York State, or California.

In private e-mails, I have flip-flopped on this issue, and will probably flip-flop again, but right now, I would tell N-Flex that if they want to test their product which has been in use for years, but not in harsh climates, they need to do their study in New York State, Iraq, or the Arctic, where things are really harsh.

$4 million? This is pocket change to CLR, ONEOK, WLL, EOG, if they all thought this was a good investment and wanted to participate.

Harsh climate! Two stories and I bet every NODAK has a similar story in his or her background.

First story:
My parents shared carpooling responsibilities with three other families when I was in kindergarten. We lived about two miles, maybe three, from the church. One day, on a very, very cold, and a very, very snowy day in January, my dad was late picking us up. I started out on my own, five years old, walking back home. I almost made it. But my dad found me someone along the trail. So, in snow higher than my knees, and temperatures forty to fifty degrees below freezing, this five-year-old almost made it home before getting picked up. I personally don't remember the story; my dad tells it. But if it was all that terrible, I would have remembered the story.
Second story:
First grade. We lived about a mile, maybe 3/4 mile from the elementary school (part of Williston High School at the time). Again, a miserably cold January or February. We always walked to school then. Yes, six years old and I walked the 3/4 mile to school no matter how cold the weather was. I do not recall "snow days" or "cold days." About twenty students were standing outside waiting for the school doors to open. We were freezing. One of us started chanting, "let us in, let us in." Eventually all of us were chanting, "let us in, let us in.

The vice principal or principal or superintendent or someone in charge came out and in a booming voice told us to all go back home; we had arrived too early and he didn't want us outside chanting "let us in, let us in." So, in temperatures probably approaching 30 degrees below zero (that would be about 60 degrees below freezing) we all turned around and started walking home. About halfway home, we heard the school bell and we quickly ran back. 
Yeah, maybe North Dakota weather seems harsh to New Yorkers, but five- and six-year-old NODAKS would never know.


  1. Bruce, I'm wondering how long it's been since you experienced a ND winter. I grew up on the Manitoba border between Grand Forks and Winnipeg where I also walked to school, and my memories are much less rosy. What I do remember is two high school girls in my little town who got caught in a sudden blizzard as they walked home -- and perished..

    1. As did the protagonist in "Giants in the Earth."

    2. Once my self-imposed responsibility to take care of our granddaughters is over, I plan to retire in North Dakota. I look forward to the winters -- again.

      I don't know if I would call my memories of "freezing" outside the elementary school when I was six "rosy." It is what it is.

      I'm just tired of the cliche: "North Dakota's harsh climate." Many folks in Aleppo, Syria, right now, would be thrilled to be able to move to North Dakota. It's all relative.

  2. I attended my grandmother's funeral in New Leipzig ND in January 1985. It was about 35 degrees below zero not including the wind chill. I was seriously cold. I thought this is ridiculous. I don't understand how the people of North Dakota deal with such cold weather but I'm glad they do :)

    1. Thank you.

      As noted, January and February are very, very tough.

      But we have no hurricanes (think Katrina); we have no earthquakes (think Northridge); we have no tsunamis; we have frequent tornado warnings, but few tornadoes; we have no roadside bombs.