Welcome to your
Williston Basin Royalty Owners Association


December 2020

Issue:  Lost North Dakota Tax Dollars

M.E. Denomy, CPA, MBA

Accredited Petroleum Accountant

Oil and Gas Companies Use Master Limited Partnerships and Affiliate Agreements to Divert Taxable Income away from North Dakota

  • 1.      Oil and Gas Companies have split their operations into categories, such as Production, Marketing, Gathering, Processing.   Each “division” is often filed as a separate business, frequently using the form of a Master Limited Partnership.
  • 2.      The Master Limited Partnership is not taxed as a business in North Dakota.
  • 3.      The net income of the division is “passed through” to the owners of the Master Limited Partnership.  Each owner will report their own share of the net income.
  • 4.      Oil and Gas Companies can use each of the separate divisions to reduce their taxable income to North Dakota by raising postproduction costs (PPC’s) paid to divisions that have high expenses, like plants.
  • 5.      The PPC’s are deducted from the royalty owners.
  • 6.      Royalty owners will pay less tax because the PPC’s are deducted from gross royalties thereby reducing net royalties received.
  • 7.      The production company will also pay less tax on the oil and gas income by applying PPC’s paid to affiliates.

Potential Dollars Overlooked:

Scenario 1:  Basic assumptions-annual loss (current price and production)

                        Per barrel price = $45               

Production per day = 1,200,000 barrels

                        North Dakota average lease=    1/8 royalty

                        Average PPC=                                 10% (one major prod. is over 35%)

1,200,000 x 45 X 0.125 x 0.10 x 365 days = $246,375,000 ND income tax exempt

Scenario 2: Basic assumptions-annual loss (January 2020 price & production)

Production per day=                    1,400,000 barrels

                        Per barrel price=                            $60

                        North Dakota average lease=    1/8 royalty

                        Average PPC=                                 10% (one major prod. is over 35%)

1,400,000 x 60 x 0.125 x 0.10 x 365 days = $383,250,000 ND income tax exempt

  The total postproduction costs to royalty owners (taken by the oil producers) for one year would be $383,250,000.  It appears that only a ridiculously small amount of ND State income tax is paid on this wealth generated from ND oil production.

Attached is a graphic that provides a simplified picture of what the consequences are on 1,000,000 barrels of oil at $45 per barrel when a $5 PPC per barrel is charged. That equates to $312,000 per day or $113,880,000 per year in untaxed wealth at the current production of 1,200,000 barrels per day and $5 PPC rates.

I believe the $5 PPC per barrel is very conservative.

The second ND State Income Tax avoidance is due to the PPC’s charged on produced natural gas. That difference may be deduced by subtracting the dollars in red in the previous paragraph from the previous dollars shown in red earlier in this correspondence. 


Bob Skarphol

Williston Basin Royalty Owners Association (WBROA)


The mission of WBROA is to educate and encourage Williston Basin Royalty Owners to engage with statewide elected officials, legislators and members of the Judiciary for purpose of providing insight into the expectations of their constituency.


The purpose of WBROA is to help enable Royalty Owners to develop the skillset to comfortably communicate their frustrations and expectations when discussing the treatment of the royalty payment issues in question.

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It’s All About Numbers and People

SCR 4010 provides for an interim study of post production deductions from royalty payments. With an extremely small number of legislators receiving oil royalties we have a large job ahead of us to educate the interim committee. It will be “all” about numbers. We must show and convince the interim Energy and Natural Resources members of what we believe are the inadequacies of the treatment of our interests. How do we accomplish that task?

It's crucial that we communicate the huge financial losses to royalty owners and the taxpayers of North Dakota due to these Postproduction costs.

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Williston Basin Royalty Owners Association. P.O. Box 725, Tioga, ND 58852-0725


WBROA does not purport to offer Legal or Professional Financial advice. We will attempt to aid in developing the language needed to request the proper answers to questions relative to seeking professional legal or financial advice.

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