by AMY R. SISK
Plans for a $122 million pipeline slated to carry Bakken oil toward a Wyoming hub are moving forward after the coronavirus pandemic stalled the project.
Bridger Pipeline is building the 145-mile South Bend Pipeline from Johnsons Corner in McKenzie County to one of the company’s pipeline facilities in eastern Montana. The pipeline is expected to transport up to 105,000 barrels per day, with the potential to expand up to 250,000 barrels per day in the future.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission is tasked with permitting pipelines and is slated to hold a hearing for the project on May 5 in Watford City.
Bridger estimates construction will take at least six months, and the company aims to begin operating the pipeline by the end of the year, according to an application it filed with the PSC.
South Bend would be the first major oil export pipeline built in North Dakota since Dakota Access began operating in 2017, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. Dakota Access is the largest oil pipeline in the state, transporting as much as 750,000 barrels per day from North Dakota to Illinois.
The oil industry has bounced back somewhat from a drop in production early on in the pandemic during 2020. The downturn made the South Bend project uneconomical at the time, but that’s since changed, according to Bridger spokesperson Bill Salvin.
“There are producers bringing wells online, and they need a reliable way to bring this crude to market,” he said. “This allows us to do that.”
South Bend is part of what’s been dubbed the “Bridger Expansion,” which includes two new pipelines. Bridger in 2020 completed the Equality Pipeline that runs from Hulett in northeastern Wyoming to Guernsey, an oil hub farther south in that state.
Oil carried through South Bend is expected to eventually arrive in Guernsey before moving elsewhere.
“This pipeline will be part of the only direct route for Bakken oil to the trading hub in Cushing, Oklahoma,” Bridger said in its application.
The Oklahoma town is home to one of the country’s largest oil hubs.
South Bend is to begin at Eighty-Eight Oil’s Johnsons Corner terminal and extend 80 miles southwest through McKenzie and Golden Valley counties before entering Montana, where it’s slated to end at Bridger’s Sandstone Station west of the town of Baker. The line would connect with Bridger’s other North Dakota facilities at Wilson Station south of Watford City and Bicentennial Station in the southwestern corner of McKenzie County.
Bridger plans to use steel pipe for the line, which would have a 16-inch diameter.
Bridger Pipeline is a part of Wyoming-based True Companies, which operates several pipeline transmission systems in North Dakota and nearby states. The company operated a pipeline that in 2016 spilled 12,615 barrels or 530,000 gallons of oil when a hillside slumped in Billings County. That spill in part prompted the company to develop a new leak detection system using artificial intelligence. Salvin said that technology will be used on the South Bend Pipeline.
The PSC hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. Central time on May 5 at Teddy’s Residential Suites, 113 Ninth Ave. SE in Watford City.