Enbridge stresses safety along proposed Sandpiper route

Enbridge is promising safety as the company moves forward with its new Bakken pipeline, proposed to run 298 miles through nine North Dakota counties.

The Sandpiper pipeline’s full 610-mile route would extend from just south of Tioga to a terminal in Superior, Wis.

Company representatives spoke about the nearly $2.8 billion project at a meeting of the North Dakota Township Officers Association in Minot Tuesday.

Township officials wanted to know about public notification, mentioning the September oil spill from a Tesoro line near Tioga that didn’t become public knowledge until weeks afterwards.

S. Mark Curwin, senior director of strategic coordination for major projects with Enbridge’s Wisconsin office, said the company is required to notify regulators within an hour of discovering an incident.

“Notification and response is a very high priority for us,” he said.

Lessons learned from a 19,000-barrel leak in an Enbridge pipeline near Marshall, Mich., in July 2010, changed forever the way the company does business, Curwin said.

“It was a seminal event for us. It was a make-or-break for our organization,” he said. Since then, he added, “We have prioritized all the various pieces that go into making sure we don’t have significant incidents.”

Planes fly over to check pipelines at least every two weeks. The company monitors pressure and flow so it can detect a leak quickly, according to officials.

“We do testing on the front end and on the back end to make sure what we put in is what we take out so that those things aren’t something that we are surprised by. That’s the last thing you want to be surprised by in our business,” said Enbridge spokesman Mark Lyman, who conducted the company’s presentation.

Company representatives said actual response time to an incident is less than 10 minutes for closing automated valves in the control centers. The company also has response trailers and people in Grand Forks, Minot, Stanley and Williston, as well as contractors who can assist.

Art Haskins, Enbridge’s emergency response coordinator, said Enbridge held three full-scale emergency response exercises last year and seven are planned this year. Area first responders are invited to participate in these practices, he said.

Safety and incident prevention are areas where Enbridge tries to lead through use of best practices, Haskins said, citing the different types of response plans that the company has prepared to ensure quick response regardless of the circumstances.

The pipeline through North Dakota will carry between 210,000 and 225,000 barrels of oil a day. About 50 percent of the pipeline will fall into the right of way of existing Enbridge pipeline, although landowners will receive a separate easement payment. Enbridge has only recently begun discussion with landowners.

Lyman said maintaining relationships with landowners is critical.

“We have a staff that’s dedicated to having that ongoing relationship with landowners,” he said. “We aren’t going to wait for a problem to happen. We take care of it proactively.”

The North Dakota route affects 975 landowners. Counties crossed are Williams, Mountrail, Ward, McHenry, Pierce, Towner, Ramsey, Nelson and Grand Forks. In Ward County, the pipeline enters on the south side of U.S. Highway 2 until Berthold, where it then continues with a slight shift toward the northeast, going just south of Minot Air Force Base.

Lyman listed the economic benefits of the pipeline beyond shifting transportation from trucks and increasing access to refineries. The project is expected to create about 1,500 temporary construction jobs along the route.

The route will include two 150,000-barrel storage tanks near the start at Beaver Lodge, an 80,000- and a 50,000-barrel tank at Stanley and a 300,000-barrel tank at Berthold. There will be pumps at those locations and at Lakota.

“For 2012, we paid roughly just over $4 million in state property taxes as a result of our pipeline structure. We anticipate that when the Sandpiper Pipeline is completely constructed that we will about tripling that number for state property tax contributions,” Lyman said.

The project remains in the permitting stage. Public Service Commission hearings are expected in local communities in early 2014. Construction could start in late 2014.