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PSC hosts smooth hearing on proposed pipeline

DICKINSON, N.D. -- A public hearing for a proposed 20-mile pipeline in southwest North Dakota went smoothly Monday, with no public comments and few questions from Public Service Commissioners.

Belle Fourche Pipeline Company has proposed increasing the capacity of an existing system by adding a 10-inch pipeline along the route of an existing 6-inch line which crosses Billings, Dunn and Stark counties.

The company hopes to start construction in August and finish by winter, engineering supervisor Bob Stamp told commissioners at the hearing at the Dickinson State University Student Center.

The pipeline system will then move more oil to the Bakken Oil Express rail hub and the under-construction Dakota Prairie Refining facility, which sit next to each other southwest of Dickinson. The refinery will process about 20,000 barrels of Bakken crude into diesel fuel daily once it’s operational late this year.

The new $7.9 million line will increase system capacity by 100,000 barrels a day, and bring oil from Belle Fourche’s existing Skunk Hill station, northeast of Belfield. Belle Fourche Pipeline Co. is a part of Casper, Wyo.-based True Companies, which also includes Bridger Pipeline.

While the existing 6-inch line currently delivers to the rail hub, it will be switched to the refinery when the new pipeline becomes operational and can bring the increased capacity to the rail hub, Stamp said.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak asked about the company’s record in North Dakota -- including any spills in its history.

Stamp said since starting business in the state in 1979, he considers the company’s reputation good, “but we have had spills over the years,” the largest being a few hundred barrels.  

The company has spill response trailers in Dickinson and Belfield and has a 24/7 monitoring center, Stamp said.

“So they should be able to see changes in flow, pressure and shut the pipeline down potentially in a matter of minutes … and start making the appropriate calls,” he said. “We have people on call 24/7.”

Stamp said the line has a life expectancy of more than 50 years.

The main purpose of the hearing was for public comment, but there wasn’t any, and Fedorchak said she’s “trusting that that means nobody has a problem with this.”

PSC Chairman Brian Kalk noted the two-and-a-half hour hearing, mostly of explanatory information from the company, was one of the shortest for the commission.

“We’ll probably get that to a decision pretty quick,” he said.