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Proposed Bakken Pipe Signs Anchor Shipper, Blasts Enbridge

Backers of the proposed High Prairie Pipeline for taking away burgeoning Bakken Shale play oil supplies fired two shots Tuesday in an attempt to untangle their 450-mile, 16-inch diameter pipeline project. They contracted with an anchor shipper for the line and filed a second complaint with a federal agency against Enbridge Energy Partners LP for blocking an interconnection of the proposed pipeline.

A unit of Durango, CO-based Saddle Butte Pipeline LLC, High Prairie officials said they have reached an agreement with an "anchor shipper/equity partner" to transport 50,000 b/d, or the equivalent of "a quarter of available domestic oil from the Bakken region." They contend the impact of this deal carries over to "dozens of refineries" across the nation that will be able to access lower-cost domestic oil.

Separately, the pipeline sponsors filed a second complaint against Enbridge's refusal to allow an interconnection with its pipeline in Minnesota, aiming this one at the U.S. Forest Service, alleging violations of the common carrier provisions of the federal Mineral Leasing Act and emphasizing that Enbridge has allowed interconnection with one of its affiliates, but has refused the High Prairie request.

In an earlier complaint filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), High Prairie similarly alleged that this move is discriminatory on Enbridge's part, which is illegal for an open access pipeline under FERC oversight (see Shale Daily, June 4).

Joining High Prairie backers in both complaint filings are three affiliated Native American tribes from the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation called the Bakken "the most significant oil/gas discovery in the Lower 48 states." The tribes asked the forest service to "prohibit discriminatory practices by a common carrier pipeline" that would limit taking away supplies at Fort Berthold to surrounding energy markets.

At stake longer term is the fate of up to 150,000 b/d and relations between two Bakken stakeholders. High Prairie is one of six separate proposals for pipeline takeaway capacity in North Dakota totaling 900,000 b/d, according to state pipeline authority officials. The unprecedented growth in production in the state has caused rail transportation to balloon to 25% of the state's oil shipments (see Shale Daily, April 18).

A Washington, DC-based project spokesperson reiterated that High Prairie had a confidentiality agreement with the anchor shipper so it is not divulging the company's name.

Based on an open season earlier this year, at which time Enbridge indicated the interconnection was doable, High Prairie committed to five-, 10- and 15-year contracts with shippers that called for the interconnection with Enbridge's pipeline. Subsequently, Enbridge acknowledged that its pipeline out of Canada would be full in the 2016-2017 period because of additional shipments of tar sands supplies out of Alberta.

With the Enbridge interconnection, High Prairie argued that it not only can take away significantly more of the Bakken supplies, but it can do so in a safer, more economic and environmentally benign manner, citing a smaller footprint on the landscape, fewer hazards than encountered in trucking supplies to market and greater financial benefits to citizens and the state government.

"The anchor shipper agreement provides additional capacity commitments for High Prairie," the spokesperson said. "[The pipeline] is prepared to move forward with the development and ultimate construction." Given the resolution of the interconnection issue, the project could be operational in the third or fourth quarter next year, he said.

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