TransCanada says it will seek US crude for planned oil pipeline from Alberta to Gulf of MexicoBy Matthew Brown, AP
Friday, September 10, 2010
TransCanada seeks US crude for oil sands pipeline
BILLINGS, Mont. — A Canadian company is inviting U.S. oil producers to bid on rights to use a proposed pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, easing worries that domestic crude could get left out of the project.
TransCanada Corp. and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer plan an official announcement Monday to kick off a so-called “open season” to solicit interest in the pipeline’s capacity from companies in Montana and North Dakota.
Calgary-based TransCanada has faced political pressure to allow U.S. oil on its 1,980-mile Keystone XL pipeline.
The project will carry crude from Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, following a route that passes through or near several major oil fields along the Montana-North Dakota border.
Industry representatives say interest in developing the U.S. reserves has been hampered in the past by a lack of refineries, pipelines and rail facilities.
“This is an opportunity for producers in the Bakken and the Cedar Creek Anticline in both Montana and North Dakota to get their oil out,” Schweitzer said, referring to major oil formations in the region.
TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha confirmed the company’s plans after being contacted Friday by The Associated Press.
“TransCanada is excited about our impending announcement. We have been developing a Bakken play for some time and are pleased with the support from local residents, officials and the commercial interest shown to date,” Cunha said.
However, there still is no guarantee domestic producers will be able to access the pipeline. They first must demonstrate enough interest, and then TransCanada or another company would have to build smaller pipelines and other infrastructure to feed into Keystone XL.
Approval of Keystone XL is pending before the U.S. State Department, which has jurisdiction because it is an international project.
On Friday, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., released a letter he sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging a quick decision on the pipeline.
Baucus said the project was too important to be held up by “bureaucratic red tape” and would provide a needed boost to local tax revenues.
Environmental groups have pushed the State Department to reject TransCanada’s application. They say the pipeline would speed the expansion of oil sands extraction to a rate that could exacerbate global warming.
With Keystone XL and a second pipeline, Keystone, TransCanada plans to invest $12 billion in its efforts to export as much as 1.5 million barrels of oil a day to U.S. refineries.
Montana and North Dakota combined produce about 380,000 barrels of oil daily, primarily from North Dakota, said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.
Industry representatives have said that figure could triple over the next several years.
The U.S. Geological Survey in 2008 estimated that up to 4.3 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana, using current technology. The agency called it the largest continuous oil accumulation it had ever assessed.
But getting that oil onto the TransCanada pipeline would require an “onramp” for the crude that was not included in the company’s earlier plans.
Oil producers have accused TransCanada in the past of ignoring their requests to build an entry point where they could tap into Keystone XL.
“From the beginning, TransCanada has opposed allowing any U.S. crude in their pipeline that lays across the U.S.,” said billionaire oilman Harold Hamm, chairman of Continental Resources Inc., an independent oil and gas company based in Enid, Okla. “That went against the grain of everyone here in the U.S., as it should.”
Continental was one of the first to tap the Bakken formation in North Dakota’s oil patch more than 20 years ago.
Schweitzer had threatened to hold up Keystone XL’s 280-mile route through his state if it did not agree to an onramp. North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven also has pushed for U.S. access to the pipeline.
Hamm and Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said a combination of political pressure and prolific oil production likely led TransCanada to open the way for U.S. crude to get on the pipeline.
North Dakota surpassed Louisiana last year as the fourth-largest oil-producing state, behind Texas, Alaska and California.
“Whether they’ve seen the upside of Bakken crude or it was forced up on them, who cares?” Ness said. “This is unbelievably great news for North Dakota and Montana.”
Dave Galt, with the Montana Petroleum Association, said TransCanada’s announcement means the company will be “in the game” for producers from his state.
“An open season is an opportunity for people to make commitments for product capacity to the pipeline, so (TransCanada) can determine whether or not they can make this onramp work,” Galt said.
MacPherson reported from Bismarck, N.D.
Tags: Billings, Energy, Hillary Clinton, Montana, North America, North Dakota, Ownership Changes, United States