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Crude oil pipeline northeast of Belfield approved

A $3.36 million crude oil pipeline project was unanimously green lit Wednesday by the North Dakota Public Service Commission in Bismarck. The pipeline has the potential to replace 273 trucks a day.

Whiting Petroleum Corp. of Denver, Colo., requested to build a 6.8-mile pipeline 6 miles northeast of Belfield.

"It's important that we build pipelines," Commissioner Brian Kalk said. "That's the long-term solution for reducing truck traffic."

The pipeline will connect to the Skunk Hill facility -- 18 miles northwest of Dickinson -- where it will connect to Bridger Pipeline. The pipeline will then have the potential to connect to crude oil markets in Mandan, Guernsey, Wyo., and Clearbrook, Minn.

The pipeline is small, Commissioner Kevin Cramer said, but it is important for transporting oil.

"Where a pipeline is 6.8 miles, truck traffic is several miles," Cramer said. "Trucks can't go across country. It's that link between the source of the oil and the transmission line that gets it into the marketplace."

Increased oil production in western North Dakota has increased traffic, said Blaine Hoffmann, Whiting's Dickinson superintendent. The oil boom has also fueled pipeline construction.

Hoffmann said Whiting expected the pipeline to be approved. Truck traffic will be reduced, making roads safer. Hoffman added the pipeline will be beneficial for everyone.

"The more traffic you have, the more percentages go up for accidents," Hoffmann said. "The more trucks you can keep off the roads the easier it is on the roads."

Kalk said the pipeline should help the oil industry expand.

"This is going to be one more avenue to move North Dakota crude (oil) to different markets," Kalk said.

Whopping crane migration was the only concern during the hearing, Kalk said. Construction on the pipeline would cease if workers spotted one of the endangered cranes within 1 mile of the site.

Construction on the pipeline should begin today, Hoffmann said. Construction should be complete by December, according to the application.