Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

North Dakota OKs Ethane Pipeline to Alberta

It will add to the hydrocarbon-rich state's mitigation of flared associated natural gas supplies in the Bakken Shale play.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) on Wednesday approved the North Dakota portion of a 430-mile ethane pipeline from a gas processing plant in the Bakken Shale to the petrochemical industry in Alberta, Canada. With an expected U.S. presidential permit from the State Department, the pipeline could be built and put in service by mid-2013.

Sponsored by Nova Chemicals Corp. in Calgary, AB, the proposed $300 million, 10-inch diameter Vantage Pipeline would carry ethane from Hess Corp.'s expanded natural gas processing plant at Tioga, ND, to Empress, AB, where it would connect with an existing ethane pipeline serving Alberta petrochemicals plants.

Early this year Canada's National Energy Board (NEB) approved the Canadian portion of the proposed pipeline -- C$240 million (U.S. dollar at par), spanning 578 kilometers (360 miles) of Saskatchewan and Alberta, mostly along established pipeline and road rights-of-way across sparsely populated, dry plains. The facilities would be installed with built-in capacity to raise deliveries eventually, as required, to 60,000 b/d by adding pump stations.

NEB approval was based on projections that the current shortfall in Alberta ethane supplies could grow from the 32,000 b/d level to more than 70,000 b/d. Alberta has an overall demand for ethane at the 250,000 b/d level.

With growing concerns about getting natural gas liquids takeaway infrastructure built to cut the amount of Bakken associated gas being flared, North Dakota state regulators approved the portion of the proposed line in their state, which is about 80 miles long and is expected to cost about $60 million.

In 2010 Nova Chemicals inked an agreement with Hess for Bakken ethane supplies and with Calgary-based Mistral Energy Inc.'s privately held Vantage Pipeline, which builds, owns and operates energy infrastructure projects in western Canada.

Vantage is expecting the cross-border permit from the U.S. State Department in August, allowing construction to begin in September, said Vantage COO David Schmunk. At the same time, Hess is expanding capacity at its gas processing plant at Tioga and the new facilities are expected to be ready by the mid-part of next year. That is when Bakken deliveries are expected to begin, he said.

A public comment period and agency review of the final environmental impact statement is coming to a close and so far it has sparked no negative responses, Schmunk said. "We want to be ready for whenever Hess is ready with its brand new 250 MMcf/d processing plant."

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