jessica-senaBy: Jessica Sena

If you haven’t heard of the Dakota Access pipeline protest across the North Dakota border, now’s the time to pay attention.

The project, a 30-inch-diameter pipeline owned by Energy Transfer Partners that would move up to 570,000 barrels per day from the Bakken oil fields to Patoka, Illinois, was scheduled to be operational by the end of the year. The pipeline operator purchased voluntary easement agreements on 100% of the properties along the route in North Dakota and 99% of the properties across the entire four-state route. All permits, including approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, have also been obtained by the company; however, protests have stopped construction in its tracks.

Yesterday, two decisions marked a precedent setting action by the federal government, with respect to land use and lawful development. Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court denied the South Dakota Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit to block pipeline construction, siting a lack of evidence that building the pipeline would harm the Tribe.

The Departments of Justice, the Interior and the Army then immediately announced an indefinite suspension of pipeline construction to reassess cultural impacts to what the Tribe calls “sacred ground”. The pipeline route does not cross the Standing Rock reservation, however, the Tribe fears harm to Lake Oahe on the Missouri River in North and South Dakota.

Consultation with GeoEngineers, a subcontractor to Dakota Access, provided information which indicates the boring process would not be of a magnitude to impact natural features, cultural resource features or above ground structures. The crossing at Lake Oahe will be placed approximately 140-210 feet below the ground surface and approximately 92 feet below the bottom of Lake Oahe. The pipeline would utilize the best available safety and monitoring technology.

The Dakota Access team held 154 meetings with local elected officials and community organizations in North Dakota since the project was announced last summer. Over the course of the year-long approval process with the North Dakota Public Service Commission, the Tribe did not once appear to voice concerns over the impacts of the pipeline’s route.

Protests arose after the project was approved and easements secured, and have since become violent and unlawful. Construction workers (100% of which are union per the project agreement) have needed protection by security guards and law enforcement. National Guardsmen have also been alerted by the North Dakota Governor to standby for support.

Allies of the Tribe in its protest have been extreme environmental groups, the Black Lives Matters movement, a handful of celebrities, and Green Party candidate for President, Jill Stein. Stein was among many seen vandalizing construction equipment last week, for which a warrant was issued for her arrest. Multiple arrests of protesters have been made along the pipeline route for trespassing and criminal mischief.

The suit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the tribe states that, “the tribe relies on the waters of Lake Oahe for drinking water, irrigation, fishing and recreation and to carry out cultural and religious practices. The public water supply for the tribe, which provides drinking water for thousands of people, is located a few miles downstream of the proposed pipeline crossing route.” It goes on to say, “the cultural and religious significance of these waters cannot be overstated. Construction of the pipeline … and building and burying the pipeline would destroy burial grounds, sacred sites, and historically significant areas on either side of Lake Oahe.”

In the federal agencies’ announcement to halt construction on federal land and beneath Lake Oahe, it was said the conflict highlights the need to consider “nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.” “Reform” is the word that should have everyone concerned.

In a 1988 case, Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, wherein The U.S. Forest Service attempted to complete a logging road through the Six Rivers National Forest in northwestern California, despite the religious use of the area by three Indian tribes, the Supreme Court ruled against the Tribes.

By ruling in favor of development, the Court avoided a situation in which tribes could guarantee the nonuse of significant portions of government land. The Court, reportedly, realized that the veto power requested by the tribes “could easily require de facto beneficial ownership of some rather spacious tracts of public property,” and it accordingly acted to prevent such an occurrence.

Following the decision, the Supreme Court stated, “however much we might wish that it were otherwise, government simply could not operate if it were required to satisfy every citizen’s religious needs and desires.”

And here we are, now faced with the very question of satisfying desires of some people over the laws which govern all people. The federal government has gone against its own agencies and judges’ lawful determinations to allow the heavily regulated construction of a $3.7 billion dollar pipeline which would create between 8,000-12,000 construction jobs and millions in beneficial tax revenue to the states in which it operates.

It’s worth noting that there are more than 2 million miles of pipeline traversing the country. Seventy percent of domestic crude is transported by pipeline, the safest means of moving oil and natural gas according to the federal government’s own Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Those resources, moved by pipeline, provide the necessary living essentials to all people, regardless of their beliefs or support. Every one of the protestors along the Dakota Access pipeline is a consumer of petroleum products, and benefits from the monies which result from pipeline infrastructure.

This decision, perhaps a Keystone XL sequel, will set the stage for what appears to be a frightening and uncertain future. If unlawful protests can reverse lawful permits, then the rule of law itself as it pertains to pipelines, permits, people and public lands as a whole, is imperiled.


IMG_1532By:  Bob van der Valk
Date:  January 19, 2015 – 12:30 PM MDT

A Bakken crude gathering system reported a pipeline leak near Glendive, Montana Saturday, January 17th, leading to oil spilling into the Yellowstone River.  An oil sheen has been noticed in the Yellowstone River approximately 15 miles from the spill site and was confirmed by Bill Salvin, spokes person from Bridger Pipeline.

The exact amount of the leak has not yet been determined but currently contractors are digging trenches on both sides of the Yellowstone River to install siphon valves in order to determine whether anymore crude oil is currently flowing through the pipeline.

Location of the suspected leak underneath the Yellowstone River is 2 miles east of the I-94 mile marker 204 near Glendive, Montana.  Work in progress can be seen from the I-94.

Kevin Pena, District Sanitarian for Dawson County, has been monitoring for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), in the water supply system for the City of Glendive and reports of contamination have been reported causing a run on bottled water at local markets.

Portion of Bridger pipeline with siphon valve installedBridger Pipeline LLC headquartered in Casper, Wyoming owns and operates the Poplar System in Eastern Montana, the Four Bears Pipeline System in North Dakota, the Parshall Gathering System and the Powder River System in Wyoming.

Crude oil gathering systems in Baker, Montana build up inventory for rail or pipeline deliveries to the coastal refining hubs on the Gulf Coast, West Coast and East Coast as well as the crude storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma.

Bridger Pipeline is owned by True Companies, which also owns and operates other crude oil gathering systems in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

Bridger Pipeline said that the oil spill at Glendive occurred at about 10 AM on Saturday.  The initial oil leak volume is estimated to be about 1,200 barrels or 50, 000 gallons according to the initial report.

The Bridger Pipeline is connected to Belle Fourche Pipeline, which gathers domestic crude production in Wyoming and North Dakota.

Bridger and Belle Fourche pipelines have a maximum capacity of about 100,000 barrels per day. A prolonged pipeline shutdown of Bridger may have some impact on crude delivery to Cushing, but it is noted that there are several other crude gathering systems in North Dakota and this crude oil could also be delivered by trucks and rail, in addition to pipelines.

Besides Belle Fourche and Bridger pipelines, True Companies is also involved in oil drilling, trucking, trading oil from both rail and truck, drilling equipment and farming and employs more than 1,000 people.

PHOTOS: (top) Portion of Bridger pipeline with siphon valve installed. (bottom) Frozen Yellowstone River shoreline at the oil spill site.

Frozen Yellowstone River shoreline at the oil spill site

By:  Bob van der Valk

Traffic on the interstate highways and rails has become part of the way modern way of life.  Rail tanker car traffic hauling crude oil increased in multiples over the last five years and will continue to do so every year until more infrastructure is build to handle all of this new found oil.   Additional crude oil production in the Williston basin, within the Bakken Shale Formation is going at full speed on our way toward make our country energy secure.

The US and Canada rail systems are currently being over utilized with the lack of infrastructure reaching the point of having major accidents.  The one in Lac-Mégantic near Quebec on Saturday, July 6th killed up to 53 people along with destroying most the small village.  Railroad tracks laid over 100 years ago are still being used today but with higher and heavier traffic than for which they were originally designed.

The 70 thousand barrels of Bakken sweet light crude oil was being shipped via rail from Trenton, North Dakota to Saint John, New Brunswick with eventual delivery destination of the Irving Oil refinery.  World Fuel Services had title to the crude oil and 50 thousand barrels were lost in the derailment caused by human error.   The MM&A engineer had stopped the 102 chain of rail cars without setting the brake.  While he walked to town to get some rest the train rolled backwards eventually derailing and exploding into a fireball killing people and destroying most of the town.

You may not like pipelines or fossil fuels but the most efficient and safest way to move the highly volatile sweet Bakken Oil crude oil is by pipeline. Increased hauling of crude oil with our overused and in some cases antiquated rail system may well turn out to be “Hell on Wheels”.

The town of Lac-Mégantic near Quebec Canada was named for the lake near which it is located and was named by the Amerindian Abernaki tribe.  It means “Place Where the Fish Are Held” and Lac is the French word for Lake. The small village is about 20 miles north of the Maine border
As environmental disasters go, the explosion Saturday, July 6, 2013 of a runaway crude oil tanker train is a major catastrophe. One thousand people were forced to evacuate the immediate area. Quebec’s environment minister reported 26,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Chaudière River and could possibly reach Quebec and the St. Lawrence River before too long.

The derailed 72-car train belonged to MM &A, which is a subsidiary of Illinois-based multinational Rail World, and was carrying North Dakota shale oil extracted by hydraulic fracturing to the massive Irving Oil refinery in the port city of Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada.   They refine the crude oil into gasoline and diesel.  Irving then uses pipelines to ship their finished products to the Northeast US as well as supply Canadian petroleum distributors.

The Wall Street Journal reported in their March 2013 article,  the US rail system moved 9,500 carloads of crude oil in 2008 and surged to 233,811 carloads in 2012. During the same period, the total number of spills and accident increased exponentially. A derailed train accident spilled 714 barrels of crude oil in western Minnesota in March 2013 on frozen land.  But, this accident resulted in a quick and efficient clean up with the railroad skating by without doing much damage to the environment.

Application for the Keystone XL pipeline permit was first filed with the US State Department in late 2008. Since then, the amount of oil being shipped on rails has risen 24-fold mostly shipped mostly on the Burlington, Northern, and Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad owned by Berkshire Hathaway.  Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha and main stockholder of Berkshire Hathaway, has been am ardent supporter of BOLD Nebraska, which is blocking the Keystone XL from being recommended through Nebraska.  The second application is waiting for recommendation by the US State Department for an eventual final up or down decision from President Obama.

Earlier this year Jane Kleeb, the Director of Bold Nebraska, stated the Keystone XL pipeline would be build over her “dead body”.  The problem there is a possibility resulting in more dead bodies, hopefully not hers, if the Keystone XL pipeline does not receive its approval to build the necessary northern leg from Alberta, Canada to Steele, Nebraska.


Baker, Montana will be the location for an on-ramp into the Keystone XL pipeline to be utilized to ship a minimum of 100 thousand barrels per day of Bakken crude oil to the Gulf Coast of the US.  The total capacity of the pipeline is 830 thousand barrels with most of the oil in the pipeline coming from Alberta, Canada in the form of oil sands crude oil also called bitumen.  It is heavier than light sweet crude oil and is the type of heavy sour crude oil used in most US oil refineries to crack into gasoline and diesel fuel as well as other products.

The southern leg has already started construction from Steele, Nebraska to Cushing, Oklahoma with President Obama taking credit for accelerating the approval process for this section.   It was a great photo opportunity for President Obama during the last Presidential election.  Only one problem the southern leg did not need his approval.  Only pipelines between countries have to go through the process of being reviewed and recommended for approval to the President.

The disaster at Lac-Mégantic should be a wake up call for this Administration to do the right thing and approve the permit for construction and operation for the full length of the Keystone XL pipeline to be approved without delay.

Video by Lac-Mégantic resident Adrien Aubert, who filmed the blast on July 6, 2013.

Oil Price Information Service
April 26, 2013
By: Edgar Ang

TransCanada said on Friday that it is now expecting the Keystone XL pipeline to be in service in the second half of 2015 due to ongoing delays in the issuance of a Presidential Permit for the controversial pipeline project.

This is slightly later than the previous projected start-up date of end 2014/early 2015 for Keystone XL pipeline.

Based on its pipeline construction experience, TransCanada said that the $5.3 billion cost estimate will increase depending on the timing of the permit. As of March 31, 2013, TransCanada had invested $1.8 billion in the project.

In January 2013, the Governor of Nebraska approved our proposed re-route after the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality issued its final evaluationreport noting that construction and operation of Keystone XL is expected to have minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska.

On March 1, 2013, the DOS released its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The impact statement reaffirmed that construction of the proposed pipeline from the U.S./Canada border in Montana to Steele City, Nebraska would not result in any significant impact to the environment.

The DOS is in the process of reviewing comments on the impact statement that it received during a 45 day public comment period that ended on April 22, 2013.

Once the DOS has completed its review, it is anticipated that it will issue a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and then consult with other governmental agencies during a National Interest Determination period of up to 90 days, before making a decision on our Presidential Permit application.

Apart from Keystone XL, TransCanada also said that construction on the $2.3 billion Cushing-Port Arthur crude pipeline project, excluding the Houston Lateral, is now 70% complete, and it is on track for first flow at the end of 2013.

This Gulf Coast Project includes a 36-inch pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the U.S. Gulf Coast and will deliver crude oil to Port Arthur, Texas.

The Gulf Coast Project will have an initial capacity of up to 700,000 b/d.

TransCanada said that its construction of the 76 kilometer (47 mile) Houston Lateral to transport crude oil to Houston refineries is expected to begin in mid-2013 and be complete by mid-2014 at a total cost of approximately $300million.

TransCanada also said that it has launched an open season for the Energy East Pipeline Project to obtain firm commitments to transport crude oil from western receipt points to eastern Canadian markets. The open season began on April 15, 2013 and closes on June 17, 2013.

The Energy East Pipeline Project involves converting natural gas pipeline capacity in approximately 3,000 km (1,864 miles) of our existing Canadian Mainline to crude oil service and constructing up to approximately 870 miles of new pipeline.

Subject to the results of the open season, the project will have the capacity to transport as much as 850,000 b/d, increasing access to eastern Canadian markets.

TransCanada has begun Aboriginal and stakeholder engagement and field work as part of our initial design and planning. If the open season is successful, we will apply for regulatory approval to build and operate the facilities, with a potential in service date of late 2017.

For the Northern Courier Pipeline, the Fort Hills Energy Limited Partnership has not indicated that their recent decision to cancel the Voyageur upgrader project has changed their current plans for Northern Courier.

TransCanada has nearly completed the field work and Aboriginal and stakeholder engagement necessary to allow us to file the permit application with the Energy Resources Conservation Board and expect to file the application in second quarter 2013.

-Edgar Ang,
Originally published by Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), Gaithersburg, MD. Additional reproduction is strictly prohibited. For more information on other news, contact Scott Berhang, +1 301.287.2332.

Oil Money BakkenTransCanada Corp. remains confident that the amended plans for the northern portion of its Keystone XL oil pipeline project will obtain the approvals it needs from both Nebraska and the White House, the company said Wednesday.

The public comment phase of Nebraska’s consideration of the pipeline re-routing that avoids an environmentally sensitive region will conclude soon and the Canadian pipeline company expects it will be able to complete its reapplication for a Presidential Permit later by the end of the year.

“The outcome of the U.S. election doesn’t change our opinion that Keystone XL will be approved” and built by the end of 2014 or early 2015, said Alex Pourbaix, president of Energy and Oil Pipelines at an Investor Day event in Toronto. It was just about a year ago that the U.S. State Department delayed a decision on the project and then, in January, President Obama rejected the permit application.

The project has encountered significant opposition from environmentalists, politicians and others concerned that the carbon emissions of oilsands crude production and consumption would worsen global warming and that the pipeline put a major aquifer at risk of contamination from an oil spill.

Pourbaix’s comments came before Obama, in his first press conference since winning reelection, spoke of the need to address climate change. “I am a firm believer that climate change is real and impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions,” he said. “I think we have an obligation to do something about it.”

Obama went on to say he wasn’t aware of what Democrats or Republicans were prepared to do, but that taking on climate change in a serious way “would involve some tough political choices.”

For TransCanada, the need for the full Keystone pipeline system (stretching from Hardisty, Alberta to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas) grows stronger the longer it is delayed. At 1.4 million b/d and capable of exporting one third of all projected Canadian oil production, the completed Keystone system will provide crude oil delivery volume that can’t be matched by rail or truck, Pourbaix said.

In the last year, shippers previously committed to long-term contracts on Keystone XL have remained so and enough volume has been added to make the line fully committed for 20 years, said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO. Nervousness about long-term commitments has given way to worries that oil production will outstrip takeaway capacity which, even with Keystone XL in place could occur by 2017.

TransCanada executives also discussed the progress of the proposed Eastern Mainline. Studies of both  economic and technical feasibility are well underway for the project that would involve the conversion of natural gas pipeline that runs east to Montreal and Toronto and the construction of new pipeline to connect the converted pipeline to the Hardisty hub. Capacity projections range between 500,000 to 1 million b/d, depending on where interest lies.

Executives reported that eastern Canada’s highest-in-the-country fuel prices, familiarity with crude oil movement (unlike British Columbia where pipeline construction is encountering significant opposition) and refiners’ desire to obtain crude cheaper than waterborne imports have stakeholders looking favorably on the project.

Allowing “a couple of years in permitting and a couple more in construction” makes 2017 a probable startup date if the Eastern Mainline Oil Pipeline were to go ahead, company executives said.

–Beth Heinsohn,   |