Enbridge Energy has applied to build the largest oil pipeline yet from western North Dakota’s booming oil patch and will soon begin courting oil producers to reserve space, a key step in a $2.6 billion project that would move millions of gallons of oil to Minnesota and Superior, Wis.
Enbridge Energy, based in Calgary, Alberta, is proposing the 612-mile Sandpiper pipeline to carry 225,000 barrels of oil each day to a hub in northern Minnesota and 375,000 barrels to one in northwestern Wisconsin. If approved by regulators, it would be the largest pipeline moving oil out of North Dakota, the nation’s second-leading producer of oil behind Texas.
North Dakota has more than doubled its oil production in the past two years, closing in on a million barrels of oil a day. But because of the lack of pipeline capacity in the state, about 60% of the state’s daily oil production is being shipped by rail. A barrel is equivalent to 42 gallons.
Enbridge Energy comments that the project is “needed and in the public interest.”
Oil shipped to Superior would be shipped through Wisconsin on a network of pipelines already in place. Enbridge Energy has proposed an expansion that would not add pipe in the state, but would expand pump stations to allow more oil to flow through the Wisconsin pipelines.
The pipeline is the biggest project yet to come before North Dakota regulators to move oil from the rich Bakken and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state, said Brian Kalk, who heads the North Dakota Public Service Commission. The three-member commission oversees a slew of public interests, from pipelines to grain elevators, though much of its recent work has involved the oil and natural gas industry.
A spokesperson for Enbridge Energy said the new pipeline would provide “a timely, cost effective and long-term transportation solution, thereby serving the public’s interest in improved access to an abundant, secure, and reliable crude oil supply to satisfy consumers’ demand for refined products.”
Kalk said the commission is reviewing the application and that at least three public hearings will be held in communities along the pipeline’s proposed route in North Dakota.
If it is approved, the two-phase expansion project for Wisconsin entails construction or upgrades at 13 Wisconsin pumping stations, along with three in Illinois, that would permit the pipeline from Superior to Illinois to triple its capacity to 1.2 million barrels a day from 400,000 barrels a day.
Enbridge Energy operates about 50,000 miles of pipelines in North America, and several hundred miles of pipelines in North Dakota, including one that runs between Minot, N.D., and Clearbrook, Minn. The line, built in 1962, has the capacity to ship 210,000 barrels of North Dakota crude daily, or about 8.8 million gallons.