Alliance comes to Kenmare to review plans for Tioga-to-Sherwood natural gas pipeline
Posted 8/30/11 (Tue)
Line will deliver ND natural gas to Chicago
By Caroline Downs
Just over 30 area landowners and other interested people showed up for the open house hosted by Alliance Pipeline in Kenmare August 17th to discuss plans for the proposed Tioga Lateral Pipeline.
Alliance representatives held a similar session in Tioga the previous evening, with 11 individuals stopping by to ask questions and get information about the project.
“We were happy with the turnout of the meeting, especially in Kenmare,” said Rob Gray, senior communications advisor for Alliance. “For the most part, the mood was supportive. Some folks had concerns, but that opened the doors for communication with the project team.”
The proposed project is a 77-mile pipeline to transport natural gas from Tioga to the Alliance mainline near Sherwood. The initial design calls for a 12-inch pipeline, with a capacity of 120,000 million cubic feet per day. The project also includes construction of a meter station and compressor station at Tioga, as well as a pressure regulating station near Sherwood.
As currently planned, the route takes nearly a straight diagonal approach from Tioga to Sherwood, skirting the north edge of Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, crossing the Des Lacs NWR, and running north of the Upper Souris and J. Clark Salyer refuges. The pipeline would cross the White Earth River, the Upper Des Lacs Lake and the Mouse River.
The proposed route would run a couple miles north of the town of Powers Lake and about two miles south of Bowbells, and cross Williams, Mountrail, Burke, Ward and Renville counties.
The purpose of the Tioga Lateral Project is to establish a pipeline to transport the natural gas being produced in association with oil production. Once it reaches the Alliance mainline near Sherwood, natural gas from western North Dakota would make its way to the Chicago energy markets.
“What we’re hearing is that a quarter to one-third of the natural gas being produced is being flared,” Gray said. “Essentially, [the pipeline] is a big underground truck that takes gas to market.”
He noted that Alliance’s pipeline design is unique in that the steel selected for the line and specialized coatings on the interior and exterior of the pipeline allow for transportation of associated liquids, such as methane, propane, butane, ethane, butane, etc., that can also be recovered for energy production or commercial purposed.
The timeline proposed for the project is subject to change, but at this point Alliance has been meeting with stakeholders, engaging in the federal regulatory process and starting environmental studies as required, and completing engineering requirements for the project. The company would like to finish the mandated assessments and receive regulatory approval by September 2012.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the agency responsible for approving the project and overseeing compliance.
begin October 2012
Pipeline construction would begin in October 2012, along with construction of the related facilities. The targeted pipeline completion date at this point is February 2013, with completion of the facilities by May 2013. The potential in-service date for the Tioga Lateral Pipeline is June 2013.
Gray estimated that, depending on the final specifications for the pipeline as determined by interest from shippers using the line, approximately 200 people would be involved with construction of the pipeline and another 75 with building the associated facilities.
Cost estimates for the project depend on the finalized, approved route and were not available at this time.
Landowners and safety
One purpose of the open house was to address safety concerns about the pipeline, an issue Alliance Pipeline takes seriously, according to Gray. “Safety is our number one focus,” he said, adding that “Call Before You Dig” is a constant theme among all Alliance employees and the landowners living with a pipeline.
He noted the 325 miles of pipeline currently maintained by Alliance in North Dakota have an unblemished safety record for the 10 years Alliance has conducted pipeline operations in the state. The pipeline is subject to a regular schedule of aerial surveys, walking surveys and monitoring by a Remote Gas Control Center.
In addition to the company’s own efforts, landowners who live along the pipeline are considered valuable partners in the safety efforts. “We place a lot of emphasis on working with our landowners,” Gray said, “so they understand their obligation.”
For the landowners’ part, any who are ag producers can continue farming as usual. “The pipeline is buried deep enough that regular farming operations are not an issue,” said Gray, “although they would need to contact us if they were going to do something like deep plowing or installing drain tile. Our right-of-way is 50 feet wide and clearly marked, with an additional 25 feet during construction of the pipeline.”
“We know the impacts of pipelines for landowners,” added Tony Straquadine, government affairs manager for Alliance.
He explained that Alliance works with property owners to develop an easement in perpetuity for the land in question, granting Alliance the rights to construct, own, operate and maintain pipeline on that ground while the landowner retains the surface rights for farming or any other use.
He described the relationship between Alliance and landowners as one of mutual respect, with the condition of the land given top priority. Landowners are compensated for any crop loss or other impacts during construction. Alliance also works with landowners to restore and rehabilitate impacted acres following pipeline construction.
“We return the land to the same shape or better,” said Straquadine.
Alliance maintains frequent communication with its landowner partners. “It comes down to educating our landowners about the signs of a [gas] leak,” Gray said. “What to watch for and what to do. We view safety as a shared responsibility, and we give them the tools to be safe around the pipeline.”
The communication continues through the life of the pipeline. “We meet with all of our landowners in the U.S. every four years,” said Gray, “and they receive information and updates through letters, e-mails and phone calls every year.”
Alliance representatives were well aware of the environmental challenges offered by the proposed route. Troy Meinke, senior manager for health, safety and environment, said the three river crossings of the preferred route would be accomplished with directional and horizontal drilling to avoid impact on those rivers.
The route is subject to assessments and surveys still to be completed. “We’ve also been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on easements they have with landowners,” said Meinke. “They have been providing data that has allowed us to look at routing alternatives in case we need to mitigate or change the route.”
He noted the USFWS has concerns about the Des Lacs lake crossing, which is currently planned immediately south of the U.S. Highway 52 crossing. “We’re looking at some other concerns there, too,” he said.
He continued, “Safe transportation of natural gas is key for us, and we have a responsibility to make sure the communities and people on our pipeline are safe.”
Along with the commitments to safety, landowners and the environment, Alliance Pipeline emphasizes community involvement. “Our corporate philosophy is to be a good neighbor and for our employees to be involved in the communities where Alliance is,” said Gray.
That involvement includes investment, with donations made to support community projects in leadership, education, environmental concerns, community development and safety. Gray described a variety of projects that benefited volunteer fire departments, community centers, ambulance services and even city swimming pools, to name a few.
The North Dakota FFA Foundation has also received over half a million dollars to provide leadership and education for rural teens, with an emphasis on farm safety.
Public input welcome
Alliance representatives welcome questions, comments and requests for more information about the Tioga Lateral Pipeline Project. “We’ve just started the public consultation aspect of this process,” said Gray. “We want to understand what people are thinking, what they may have heard and their interest in the project.”