Posted 7/14/15 (Tue)
By Nicky Ouellet
The Beaver Lodge Station, a sprawling oil and gas transmission hub eight miles south of Tioga, was supposed to be abuzz this summer with construction of a new interstate pipeline.
But unexpected setbacks in securing rights of way have delayed work on the project at a time when local economies are hurting for growth.
The Sandpiper Pipeline Project, a 616-mile interstate transmission line first proposed in 2012, was scheduled to begin transporting Bakken crude oil to East Coast refineries by the end of 2016.
Local crew camp facilities, like Capital Lodge, have been in contact with subcontractors for the project for nearly a year.
“It’s still very viable,” said David Brown, operations manager for Capital Lodge.
Brown described an “ongoing dialogue” with several subcontracting companies who have estimated needs of anywhere from 15 to 60 beds.
But, “It’s all speculation,” he said.
During peak construction, the project could employ as many as 200 people, according to Katie Haarsager, North Dakota community relations advisor for Enbridge. Sandpiper is owned by North Dakota Pipeline Company LLC, a subsidiary of Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P.
“While this summer we had hoped to do more construction on the pipeline itself we are still able to work at our stations in North Dakota to prepare,” she said.
As of June 27, terminal construction at Beaver Lodge is 17 percent complete, according to Enbridge’s weekly progress report to the North Dakota Public Service Commission.
Until the entire route for the pipeline is approved, construction will be confined to minimal preparatory work like laying concrete and excavating a fire pond, said Haarsager.
The holdup stems from a section of Sandpiper that would cross the northeastern corner of the White Earth Indian Reservation in western Minnesota.
The White Earth Nation relies on the wetlands there to cultivate wild rice, the basis of the local economy that supports many of the tribe’s 20,000 members.
Though private landowners on the reservation are free to negotiate a right of way with Enbridge on their land, the company must also obtain permission from the tribal council, which is unlikely to agree to allow the pipeline’s passage through an environmentally sensitive area.
“There’s not an area where there won’t be an impact,” said Haarsager, calling route placement a balancing act where safety, potential environmental risks and cost are taken into account.
The Sandpiper project was first announced in 2012 as an answer to the problems associated with shipping volatile Bakken crude.
North Dakota consistently ships roughly one third of its Bakken production by pipeline. The majority is transported by rail.
Sandpiper would move more than 20 percent of the Williston Basin’s current production from the Beaver Lodge Station south of Tioga to the Clearbrook Terminal in Minnesota. There the line will join Enbridge’s mainline to the Superior Terminal in Wisconsin and onward to east coast refinery hubs.
At its full capacity, the 24-inch diameter pipe would ship up to 225,000 barrels of oil a day.
“The economy in the region and nation overall continue to benefit from Bakken oil production,” Mark Maki, Enbridge president, wrote in a 2014 press release. “This project will help get Bakken product to desirable markets, continuing to bolster economic growth.”
Local growth could happen by September, the earliest date Brown expects Capital Lodge will start housing workers for the project.
“It’s not a matter of if it happens, more of when,” he said.
Enbridge has pushed Sandpiper’s in service date to sometime in 2017.