Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

New Bakken Shale Pipeline to Cushing, Oklahoma in the Works

Energy
New Bakken Shale Pipeline to Cushing, Oklahoma in the Works

DeSmogBlog

By Steve Horn

The controversy over TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline has raged on for years now, with no end in sight. 

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands crude from the tar sands epicenter of the world in Alberta, Canada, take it down to Cushing, Okla., and then eventually down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will be refined and placed on the lucrative oil export market.

While Republicans continue to try to make Keystone XL a campaign issue, President Obama has officially put the fate of the pipeline on the backburner until after the November 2012 U.S. elections.

But this has not stopped other key pipelines and pipeline extensions from being built "in the meantime, in between time," as the song lyrics made famous by the classic novel, The Great Gatsby, go.

Most recently in the limelight: Obama's late-March approval of the TransCanada Cushing Extension, which extends from Cushing, Okla.—the self-proclaimed "pipeline crossroads of the world"—to Port Arthur, Texas.

Now, another key pipeline proposal is in the works, one that would move unconventional oil and gas obtained via the problematic hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") process in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin southward to Cushing, where it would then be moved to Port Arthur and also placed on the global export market. Another portion of that pipeline would move the oil and gas westward toward Coos Bay, Ore., where it would also be exported to the highest bidder.

A review, then, is in order. 

Enter the Bakken Crude Express Pipeline 

On April 11, Wyoming's Casper Star-Tribune reported, "A natural gas company wants to build a 1,300-mile pipeline to carry crude oil from North Dakota through easternmost Wyoming on its way to the nation’s biggest storage terminal in central Oklahoma (Cushing)." The deal will cost somewhere between $1.5-1.8 billion, according to the Associated Press

The company and name of the pipeline? Oneok Partners LP's Bakken Crude Express Pipeline. The pipeline essentially performs the same function TransCanada's proposed but not yet approved portion of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, known in the business world as the Bakken Marketlink Project.

Oneok hopes the pipeline is in place and pumping out 200,000 barrels of oil per day "from the heart of North Dakota’s rich oil patch to the hub in Cushing, Okla." by 2015.

Opal, Wyoming: Where the Bakken Shale and Niobrara Shale Converge

The Bakken Crude Express isn't the only one in play in this deal.

Oneock's Bakken Pipeline, as well as Williams Company's and Oneock's Overland Pass Pipeline—which both co-own on a 50-50 joint venture basis—are also part of this deal and are all key pieces of the oil and gas industry's big-picture pipeline infrastructure puzzle.

The Bakken Pipeline will pump the oil and gas fracked from the Bakken and carry it southward to the meeting point of the Bakken Pipeline and the Overland Pass Pipeline. Some of that oil will continue moving southward toward Cushing, while some of it will divert westward to the city of Opal, Wyo., another key pipeline fork in the road.

Oil and gas piped further southward toward Cushing will now be part of Oneock's Bakken Crude Express. Oil and gas being piped westward toward Opal will connect with the Ruby Pipeline, which carries gas fracked in the Niobrara Shale westward to Malin, Ore. From Malin, the oil and gas will continue its westward voyage to the city of Coos Bay, via the Pacific Connector Pipeline, where it will end up at the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and placed on the Asian gas export market.

If all of these pipelines are approved, one would see oil and gas liquids fracked in the Bakken and Niobrara Shale basins both placed on the global export market, the former in the Asian and European export markets, the latter exclusively on the Asian export market. 

What do American citizens get out of the deal? Higher home heating prices and all the pollution problems associated with the extraction and transportation of these dirty fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry gets what it wants—higher profits from overseas buyers. So much for the gas industry talking point that "natural gas promises more affordable energy for Americans."

The Alternative: Flaring?

Close observers of the North American oil and gas industry know that the Bakken has been the home of vast amounts of gas flaring, a process recently condemned by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economy (CERES) and written about by DeSmogBlog.

As of right now, according to an important September 2011 New York Times report, roughly 30-percent of the gas currently fracked in the Bakken is flared because pipeline infrastructure is lacking.

Flaring—as noted by a startling 2004 Friends of the Earth UK (FOE UK) briefing—creates horrific climate and ecological damage.  

The flares also contain widely-recognised toxins, such as benzene, which pollute the air. Local people complain of respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis. According to the U.S. government, the flares contribute to acid rain and villagers complain of the rain corroding their buildings. The particles from the flares fill the air, covering everything with a fine layer of soot.

Local people also complain about the roaring noise and the intense heat from the flares. They live and work alongside the flares with no protection.

Bearing that in mind, it is important to dig to the root of the problem: extreme oil and gas extraction methods, such as fracking and tar sands development, and not what DeSmogBlog has referred to as playing the game of "pipeline whack-a-mole."

To repeat what we wrote then, as it is the same game, merely different pipelines:

Basically, we're grasping for leftovers from the original fossil fuel frenzy, and still ignoring the fact that we're not only running out, we're also cooking the atmosphere with global warming pollution in the process.

Alas, until we awaken from this delusion, it's still damned if we do, damned if we don't.

Some day maybe we'll pursue a real clean energy future. Until then, it's 'pipe dreams' for the foreseeable future.

For more information, click here.

—————

Stay up-to-date on the latest fracking news by clicking here.

With restaurants and supermarkets becoming less viable options during the pandemic, there has been a growth in demand and supply of local food. Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County / Flickr

By Robin Scher

Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A technician inspects a bitcoin mining operation at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec on March 19, 2018. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
OR-93 traveled hundreds of miles from Oregon to California. Austin Smith Jr. / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs / California Department of Fish and Wildlife

An Oregon-born wolf named OR-93 has sparked conservation hopes with a historic journey into California.

Read More Show Less
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, was retired the following month. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

By David Drake and Jeffrey York

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The Big Idea

People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.

Read More Show Less