Pipelines promoted as alternative to trucking, flaring

WILLISTON, N.D. – Gov. Jack Dalrymple had a simple message Thursday for representatives from the pipeline industry: “As far as we’re concerned in North Dakota, you can’t go too fast.”

More than 100 industry leaders and others gathered in Bismarck for a summit on pipeline development, which Dalrymple and other state officials say is key to taking trucks off the roads, reducing flaring of natural gas and providing more cost-effective routes to market.

“There is no single thing that I can think of that can do more to reduce the human impacts of rapid oil development than pipelines,” Dalrymple said.

North Dakota’s pipeline capacity would transport more than 1.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2015 if all of the proposed interstate projects move forward, Dalrymple said.

The state’s oil production is projected to hit 1 million barrels of oil per day in three to five years, Dalrymple said. The large, interstate pipeline projects also would transport Williston Basin oil pumped from in Canada, Montana and South Dakota.

“We are on track to have our state’s production actually handled by pipeline,” Dalrymple said.

Tad True, vice president of Bridger/Belle Fourche Pipelines, said pipelines are significantly reducing the length of truck hauls.

For example, the 77-mile Four Bears Pipeline that starts near New Town, N.D., eliminates the need for 50,000 truck miles each day on Highways 22 and 85, True said.

Pipeline transportation also is safer than rail or truck and has lower spill rates, said Alex Pourbaix, president of energy and oil pipelines for TransCanada.

Dalrymple said he’s glad to see pipelines and natural gas gathering systems reducing the need for flaring, but the challenge is keeping up with the pace of drilling.  Natural gas is flared, or burned off, at a drilling site when there is no way to capture gas that escapes from a pumping oil well.

The North Dakota Pipeline Authority is studying natural gas production with a report due in July.

Mike McGonagill, senior vice president for Alliance Pipeline, emphasized his company’s commitment to safety, the land and local communities.

Alliance is working with North Dakota State University on a native prairie reclamation effort, he said.

“We do want to work very hard to mitigate the impacts that we have on land,” McGonagill said.

Gene Veeder, director of McKenzie County Economic Development, said five or 10 year ago, landowners who were approached about securing the right-of-way for a pipeline project were concerned primarily about money.

Today, more landowners are concerned about what the pipeline is transporting, what happens if there’s a spill and the long-term effects on the land, said Veeder, who owns a ranch near Watford City, N.D.

Veeder encouraged industry officials to work in cooperation with landowners and to be cautious about the construction companies they hire because one bad player affects other pipeline development.

Overall, Veeder said the message he’s sharing with the public is to embrace pipelines.

“If you don’t like flares, you have to like pipelines. If you don’t like trucks, you have to like pipelines,” Veeder said.

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