North Dakota Pipeline Construction Project Hinges on Dakota Access Progress

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WATFORD, N.D. (AP) — The construction of a $12 million pipeline project in McKenzie County that would carry up to 75,000 barrels of crude oil per day may be dependent on the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, according to testimony Friday during a public hearing on the company’s application for permits.

Skip Vest, a manager with Caliber Midstream, testified that the line is intended to tie into Energy Transfer Partner’s 570,000 barrel per day line. Asked if the line was wholly dependent on its completion, Vest said he was unsure.

“That is going to be an interesting scenario,” he said. “I would have to say at the current time yes, because we haven’t had a chance to think through what would happen and what would be the possibilities for using that line. It kind of kicks the whole concept up a notch. There are other alternatives, but I cannot affirmatively say we have gotten that far with it.”

Vest nonetheless testified his company does plan to start construction of the proposed 5.7-mile, 12.75-inch line in November, even with that possibility in mind.

Pipelines are the safest, most efficient means of moving crude oil, Vest testified.

A 30,000 barrel per day pipeline takes about 167 trucks off the road in a 24-hour period. The normal throughput of the line is 50,000 barrels per day, which would equate to about 278 trucks per day.

There was one public comment during the hearing, from Evan Whiteford, with the Laborer’s International Union of North America, the Williston Herald reported (http://bit.ly/2eqFwMr ). He urged the Public Service Commission representatives and the company to take very seriously all the safety aspects to the pipeline, as well as minimization of impacts to the environment and cultural resources.

“It’s really important we all start paying closer attention to how we are doing the pipelines, and what’s going into the preparation of pipelines, to make sure all the i’s and t’s are dotted and crossed,” he said. “Our industry is under attack, and that affects everyone in the room. We cannot afford any more black eyes. I want to see the project go in. It’s going to put oil in Dakota Access, but that makes it a target for anyone who is anti-pipeline, and that’s a very sensitive issue for anyone in oil and gas.”

PSC Attorney Brian Schmidt asked if there was anything in particular Whiteford felt needs to be done better.

Whiteford indicated that all the testimony indicated the right steps are planned, but he just wanted to emphasize their faithful execution, without implying anything negative toward any particular company.

Safety measures for the Caliber Bear Den Interconnect’s proposed pipeline took up a substantial portion of the hearing.

“Shortly after the pipeline is finished, we will hydrotest it for eight hours,” Vest testified. “And we are committed to 100 percent x-ray review of all welds. We will also check the coating on the pipeline to make sure it’s intact when the pipeline goes into the ground. We will make sure all the welds are coated as well.”

The coatings protect the pipeline from corrosion, Vest later explained. Workers in the field will have a device with them to check the coating all up and down the pipeline. If any area is deficient, that registers on the device. They have a stick of coating material that can be melted into place to fix any deficient areas immediately in the field.

Caliber will be using a supervisory control and data acquisition system to monitor flows in and out of the system in real time, and their operators will have the ability to monitor this in real time on their phones and laptops. During a surprise emergency response drill last week, employees were able to mobilize a response team and stop pipeline operations within 15 minutes of receiving an alert.

In a real situation, they would have been already been notified by the system, but the drill tested the company’s procedures and helps ensure everything will go as it should if the need arises.

“All Caliber personnel for the line will be trained in emergency response procedures,” Vest said.

In addition to the 24-7 monitoring, the company plans to do fly-over and foot inspections every two weeks to visually inspect the pipeline.

Twenty-five percent of the proposed line will co-exist with existing utility lines. A hydrovac will be used in those areas to ensure minimal disturbance to existing lines.

 

Asked about the risks, Vest said, “There are always risks, but it’s done frequently and very commonly.”

For restoration, Vest said he intends to hold his company to FERC National Gas Standards, even when not necessarily required to do so, because he feels the higher standards makes sense.

As far as pipeline restoration goes, the main source of complaints they have received involves settling.

“We make every attempt to repair it as soon as possible,” he said.

Since the project will take place in winter, the complete restoration will await spring, when the ground has thawed. They have also surveyed the area for environmental and cultural resources, and have implemented a plan to either avoid or minimize impact to them, as appropriate, according to testimony from Reice Haase, a staff scientist with Cardno in Williston.

There is one dry wetland and an associated dry stream — which means it’s only wet during excessively high precipitation events — both of which will be open cut as per the landowner’s preference to minimize compaction from heavy equipment. There is a second wetland and stream which will be crossed using horizontal drilling well below them to minimize disturbance to them.

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