Transportation Safety Issues Fueling Pipeline Proposals In North Dakota And Minnesota

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Following the derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude oil near Casselton, North Dakota, and a federal Department of Transportation safety alert that Bakken crude may be more prone to ignite at lower temperatures than other crudes, there’s renewed interest in finding secure transportation alternatives for those natural resources.  Pipelines are one alternative gaining particular attention and investment in the wake of these developments.

For example, Enbridge has proposed the interstate Sandpiper Project, which would install one pipeline section from Tioga, North Dakota to a terminal at Clearbrook, Minnesota, and another section from Clearbrook to Lake Superior.  All told, the estimated $2.5 billion project would stretch more than 600 miles. 

The Sandpiper Project is currently under review by state regulatory agencies in both North Dakota and Minnesota.  Last August, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission authorized Enbridge to send notices to property owners along two possible pipeline routes, and in November, Enbridge submitted its proposed plan and environmental information report to the commission.  On the other side of the border, the North Dakota Public Service Commission will hold three public hearings on the project in February.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission also recently approved a siting permit sought by Bakken Oil Express for a much smaller 38-mile pipeline between Killdeer and Dickinson.  That pipeline will originate from a tanker truck unloading and pumping facility and transport crude oil to the company’s rail terminal. 

As the expanding oil production in the Bakken region continues to stress the existing rail and road infrastructure, and safety concerns become an increasingly significant issue, it’s likely that the area will see additional proposed pipeline projects in the near future.