The multi-billion-dollar Sandpiper Pipeline addition from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to multiple market connecting points in Minnesota appears to have enough shipper interest to move forward, North Dakota Pipeline Authority Director Justin Kringstad said Thursday.

In response to questions during a webcast reporting the latest state oil and natural gas production statistics, Kringstad said according to results of a recent open season by project sponsor Enbridge Inc.'s North Dakota Pipeline Co. (NDP), there is plenty of interest in the additional capacity eastward.

"They had 155,000 b/d of interest committed to that project, which is scheduled to begin operations in 2016," Kringstad said. "It will facilitate the movement of North Dakota crude to eastern markets and also to markets to the south in the Gulf [of Mexico].

"Customers have signed up for a lot of shipping capacity so there is obviously a lot of industry demand to have that system in service when it is scheduled to be."

Kringstad underscored the need for the $2.6 billion project to transport light crude oil from the Bakken Shale and Western Canada by 2016, expanding the takeaway capacity of the NDP system by 225,000 b/d to a total of more than 400,00 b/d (see Shale Daily, Nov. 26, 2013). Houston-based Marathon Petroleum Corp. is funding 37.5% of the Sandpiper project in exchange for an approximate 27% stake in the North Dakota feeder system out of the Bakken.

However, in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filing earlier this month, the project's need and viability were questioned by a Minnesota refinery that is a customer on the existing NDP oil pipeline from the Bakken east (see Shale Daily, March 7).