Study: Oil pipeline mapping incompleteImprovements in communication, tracking and oversight will be helpful as energy sectors are developed in southwestern North Dakota, according to a recent study.
Improvements in communication, tracking and oversight will be helpful as energy sectors are developed in southwestern North Dakota, according to a recent study.
The Roosevelt-Custer Regional Council for Development has finalized “A Study and Strategic Planning Approach to the Development of Multiple Energy Resources of Southwestern North Dakota.”
“The study was not necessarily to show the negative side, but the compounding side of development,” said Rod Landblom, R-CRC executive
It found incomplete mapping of oil pipelines in the state.
“If you have oil companies coming in and constantly building pipelines, how do they know what runs where?” said Lisa Call, community affairs for R-CRC. “They’re not keeping a comprehensive list of what’s being built where.”
Agencies hold different information and many have some maps available, but she was unable to find maps of all pipelines in the state.
North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark said the PSC certifies interstate and intrastate oil transmission lines and any intrastate natural gas transmission lines. Interstate natural gas has federal jurisdiction.
“The Public Service Commission wouldn’t necessarily have a listing of every pipe that is in the state,” he said.
Anyone digging for any reason must use the North Dakota One Call system, which locates underground infrastructure, he said.
However the study found inconsistent and inaccuracies in maps.
“I understand they each have separate responsibilities, but they don’t necessarily communicate with each other,” Call said.
Clark said the information is not readily available because of security.
“There’s a good deal of resistance, post-9/11, to have exceptionally detailed information regarding critical infrastructure available to anyone at any time that offers extraordinarily precise locations of where critical pipelines and things like that are,” Clark said.
Providing a “general clearinghouse of where pipelines are located,” is a fair proposal, he said.
Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, said exact mapping exists for major transmission lines, but not for gathering lines, which run from a well to a larger transmission line.
“Unfortunately there is no central database available for those details,” Kringstad said. “It’s typically held private by the pipeline company themselves.”
He added procedures are in place for emergency responders should an incident occur in any pipeline.
Another concern the study points out deals with train loading facilities that move oil via railroad.
“A person would naturally assume that the PSC or the Industrial Commission become involved because of the size and the amount of petroleum products — hundreds of thousands of gallons each day,” Call said. “Normally the PSC is required to hold a public hearing on any type of energy conversion facility or transmission facility.”
They are instead regulated by local zoning ordinances.
“These are substantial facilities and if there’s a feeling that there’s a state interest in permitting them I think that might make some sense,” Clark said.
Besides oil and gas, residents should be aware of all energy sources available in the area, Call said.
“Everyone is so focused on oil and oil impacts,” she added. “If any more of those energy sectors, or say all of them, start to be developed at the same time, there’s going to be a lot more impacts than just from oil.”
To avoid “insecurity and chaos,” Landblom said better procedures should be in place before more development occurs.
“There’s going to have to be a stronger monitoring and oversight process developed,” he said. “If you don’t have the available information or realize what’s going to happen, or is going on, you’re ability to make positive decisions is pretty limited.”
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