Further punctuating the rapidness of the expansion in the Bakken Shale and Three Forks formations in North Dakota, Enbridge Energy Partners LP (EEP) began Friday to expand its takeaway capacity by 23,500 b/d in the area through reconfiguration of its system between Minot, ND, and Clearbrook, MN.

The expansion involves what Enbridge called “an optimization of existing facilities and services” that requires “limited capital investment.” It is expected to be available by the end of the first quarter this year. It is part of a much larger expansion program involving an added 145,000 b/d capacity.

A combination of EEP and Enbridge Income Fund Holdings Inc. (EIF) announced last Monday they were embarking on a $560 million expansion effort involving EEP’s North Dakota system and EIF’s Enbridge Saskatchewan system (see Shale Daily, Feb. 15). The bulk of the 145,000 b/d increase will not come online until late next year, according to the two Enbridge units.

The North Dakota system mainline capacity between the Minot and Minnesota points recently was expanded by 51,500 b/d, going up to 161,500 b/d. That was a Phase IV expansion that was operable Jan. 1 last year and was immediately fully utilized, according to an Enbridge spokesperson. The reconfiguration will increase the overall capacity to 185,000 b/d at a cost of $7 million.

Enbridge said the reconfigured portion of the system operates as a common carrier without any term commitments.

“This expansion in the common carrier portion of the system complements our more substantial 145,000 b/d Bakken Expansion Program, which is being undertaken with significant term capacity commitments,” said Stephen Wuori, Enbridge Inc.’s president for liquid pipelines. He stressed that this allows the company to be immediately responsive to the needs of its shippers.

“The 23,500 b/d increase…together with the 25,000 b/d from the Portal Reversal Expansion Program set to be in service in March will help meet the immediate needs of shippers while the second and possible subsequent phases of the Bakken expansion program should meet future pipeline transportation demand.” EEP will continue to work closely with its shippers to make sure all the additional capacity they want is available, Wuori said.

EEP owns and operates a diversified portfolio of crude oil and natural gas transportation systems in the United States, including the North Dakota system.