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Pipeline proposals may decrease need for Keystone XL

WILLISTON -- Several pipeline proposals that are in the works diminish the importance of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline for North Dakota, according to the state's public service commissioner.

Kevin Cramer said that projects such as the Bakken Crude Express Pipeline proposed earlier this month by Oneok Partners LP that would transport 200,000 barrels daily from North Dakota to Cushing, Okla., make the Keystone XL project less important for North Dakota.

That project is one of six pipelines proposed to increase the pipeline capacity out of North Dakota.

Cramer said that while many pipelines have somewhat circuitous routes, he considers the Bakken Crude Express to be the first "bullet line" with a direct route.

However, Cramer added that the Keystone XL Pipeline is important for national security and energy security.

Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, said while proposals such as the Oneok pipeline are exciting news, the Keystone XL Pipeline is unique because that project has shipper commitments to move forward.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, also said the Keystone XL Pipeline remains important for North Dakota.

"Keystone is still important to get to the Gulf Coast," Ness said.

The northern section of the Keystone XL, which has raised the concerns of environmentalists, has an uncertain political future. It needs federal approval to cross the U.S.-Canada border, Cramer said. Meanwhile, TransCanada is moving forward on building the final leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.

During the next six months, the companies proposing the pipelines out of North Dakota, including Oneok, will work on getting shipping commitments, Kringstad said.

After that, those that move forward will go through the regulatory process. The completion dates for the proposals range from 2013 to 2015, he said.

Increasing the export capacity is critical for North Dakota, Ness said.

"Just like anything, you need to be able to get your product to market in order to get a fair price for it," Ness said. "More access to more markets is key to any commodity."

Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch.