Power Company Plan Could Speed Bakken Pipeline Progress

BISMARCK – A Duluth, Minn., energy company announced Wednesday it plans to create an energy corridor that could efficiently transport oil and natural gas produced in North Dakota and reduce natural gas flaring.

ALLETE, an energy company that has a 465-mile electrical transmission line from central North Dakota to Duluth, said it plans to work with other energy companies to locate pipelines along its existing right-of-way.

ALLETE officials made the announcement from the North Dakota Capitol Wednesday with Gov. Jack Dalrymple and members of the EmPower North Dakota Commission.

No specific projects have been proposed, but the energy corridor could accommodate several pipelines for transporting oil or natural gas, as well as wastewater and carbon sequestered from fossil fuel.

Pipeline companies have to obtain right-of-way from private landowners. The idea is that locating pipelines adjacent to the transmission line would be more efficient and less disruptive to landowners than establishing several different rights-of-way.

“We think it can bring a certain amount of efficiency and ease landowner fatigue here in North Dakota,” said ALLETE President, Chairman and CEO Alan Hodnik.

Dalrymple thanked company officials for their “tremendous vision” and said he hopes the corridor will help the state meet its goal of reducing natural gas flaring.

“I would like to see this corridor become part of the achievement of a large natural gas pipeline from the Bakken region to the east,” Dalrymple said. “I think the odds of that taking place are greatly enhanced by this concept.”

ALLETE has a 250-kilovolt line, purchased in 2009, that transmits electricity from the lignite-fired Young Generation Station in Center, N.D., and the nearby Bison Wind Energy Center to Duluth. The company is working to extend its right-of-way 60 miles to the west to the Bakken region.

“This corridor provides the shortest distance and most direct path from the Bakken formation east,” said Eric Norberg, president of ALLETE Clean Energy, a subsidiary of ALLETE.

The company is studying several projects but was not ready to announce any specifics Wednesday, Norberg said.

In addition to transporting oil and natural gas, the corridor would promote expansion of wind energy to western North Dakota by increasing export capacity, officials said.

The corridor also could be used to move water or wastewater by pipeline in western North Dakota and to promote recycling of water for hydraulic fracturing by transporting it to a central location, Norberg said.

A future emphasis will be to capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, which would reduce emissions and could be used in enhanced oil recovery in the Bakken.

Any proposed projects would still need to go through regulatory permitting processes. Companies also would need to negotiate compensation and surface agreements with landowners along the corridor.

Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, said the pace of development has meant that landowners are dealing with multiple right-of-way requests for pipelines, electrical lines and other infrastructure.

“The concept of trying to minimize that to a certain degree is encouraging,” Kringstad said.