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Natural Resources

Oneok announces possible route for second pipeline in eastern Wyoming

Written by Christy Martinez
On April 10, Oneok Partners LP announced the proposed the Bakken Crude Express Pipeline, which would cost between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion and would move 200,000 barrels of crude each day from North Dakota to Cushing, Okla.
    One of the proposed pipeline’s routes closely follows that of the Bakken Pipeline, for which the route has already been negotiated with eastern Wyoming landowners, who are collectively known as Progressive Pathways.
    “The first thing I thought was that I wasn’t surprised,” says Cheyenne attorney Frank Falen, who has worked closely with Progressive Pathways through the first pipeline. “We knew there was a possibility of another pipeline coming, but it wasn’t concrete.”
    Oneok contacted the landowner group after their announcement on April 10.
    “From what we understand, they know where it will start and where it will end, but they’re not firm on whether it will exactly follow this other pipeline,” says Falen. “It would be a little shorter on a different route to the east, but there are advantages to using the same route.”
    Falen says that, from the announcement posted online, it would appear the route is set.
    “But that is the reason that they contacted us yesterday, so they could tell our group that even though it appears to be exactly on that right-of-way, it is still up in the air whether it would go that way, or be moved to the east,” explains Falen, adding that it’s a 50/50 shot as to whether the new pipeline will be in the existing route or to the east.
    Progressive Pathways board member and alternate member of the negotiating committee Clark House, who lives 10 miles west of Yoder, says he participated in a conference call with the company on April 10.
    “As of right now, that is just a projected second pipeline,” says House. “They had to put a location in to start the process with their investors, and they’re still not sure if it will go through here, or through a Nebraska route.”
    House says that, in his opinion, he doesn’t see why Oneok wouldn’t already use the through right-of-way that they’ve already surveyed.  
    “This is the best route there was to begin with,” he says.
    Progressive Pathways board member Steve Hays, whose place is west of La Grange, says his first concern on hearing the news was that their area would eventually turn into a corridor of pipelines.
Route requires new
contract
    Should Oneok decide that they want to run another pipeline in the same corridor they’ve already negotiated, they would have to go through a separate, additional negotiation process for the new project.
    “In our negotiations, we said that the right-of-way they have now is for one pipeline and one right-of-way. They can’t sell it off to anybody else, or put another pipeline or fiber optics in it. It’s one pipeline, period,” says House.
    House notes that another contract may consist of adding another 25 feet to the existing right-of-way, which would give the company enough room to construct another pipeline. Falen says it could also include selling a second easement on top of the first.
    “I think the majority of landowners in the first pipeline would be willing to talk about a second one,” says House. “There are always a few who didn’t want this one, the next one or any one, but you have to make the best of what you’re dealt.”
    House says they would “most definitely” use their experience with the first pipeline.
    “In every endeavor, the first time is a steep learning curve. There are things we would do differently, and that they would probably do differently,” he notes. “They’re talking about a 20-inch oil pipeline this time, and the last was a 12-inch natural gas liquids pipeline, so there would be additions and subtractions from the first one.”
First pipeline moves
forward
    Regarding the Bakken Pipeline that has already completed negotiations, House says the exact path is almost finalized, and it will soon begin to be flagged in the final survey.
    “The last we heard, all that will start in the middle of May,” says House. “They hoped to have equipment running by the first of June.”
    He explains that, rather than starting at one end or the other, five crews will build the pipeline in 100-mile segments.
    “They’ll really push to be done by the first of January, and in production,” says House.
    Of the reclamation, he says parts of it would begin this fall, with replacing topsoil and beginning seeding, but the majority would wait for Spring 2013.
    House has about a mile and a quarter of the pipeline on his place, and he says that, through construction, he will watch closely for any activity outside the right-of-way.
    “They have a certain amount of space they paid for and are supposed to stay in, and they’ll be in a big area without fences or anything to stop them,” says House. “That will be the biggest concern of most of the landowners – they need to adhere to the terms of the contract, and stay on their own right-of-way.”
Waiting for word
    As far as the Bakken Crude Express Pipeline is concerned, House says there was some discussion on the teleconference about being a little farther down the road with the plan in June.
    “By mid-summer they hope to have a greater idea of what they want, and what they will do,” he states.
    Even if the proposed pipeline doesn’t end up following the existing route, Falen says he and the landowners have reason to believe there’s another that’s also in the works that could also follow the existing route.
    “It’s certainly not surprising that there would be more pipelines, and that’s all the more reason we need to legislate and deal with issues such as bonding,” says Falen.
    Hays adds that he would like to see a statewide pipeline abandonment fund, where the state could take care of abandoned pipelines similar to its program for abandoned mines.
    “We’re monitoring the situation, with contact with Oneok, and when a definitive route is planned we’ll see if we need to be involved,” says Hays.
    Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..