With oil production in North Dakota and Montana dramatically increasing the last few years, Enbridge Pipelines (North Dakota) L.L.C. (part of the Enbridge Energy Partners systems) found itself in a bind. During 2005, oil supply outpaced the capacity of the system, so Brian Johnson and others in the Enbridge Group went to work on solutions. The Enbridge North Dakota system represents about 950 miles of an Enbridge U.S. pipeline system that exceed 14,000 miles in 26 states and is operationally integrated with extensive affiliated systems in Canada.
Johnson, who has overseen the $70-million project, has been with Enbridge for nearly 16 years and manager of the North Dakota system for more than three years. “The drilling activity in Montana and western North Dakota continues to increase,” said Johnson. “The Guernsey Hub in the Rockies became oversupplied, and that created a crude oil bottleneck. We want to increase pipeline capacity to help alleviate the constraints and offer solutions to our customers.”
Starting in 2005, after receiving support from a majority of its shippers, Enbridge began a series of improvements and expansions to increase capacity on its system spanning from eastern Montana through North Dakota and interconnecting in northwestern Minnesota. One of the first efforts was to safely increase operating pressure.
Enbridge intensified its already aggressive pipeline safety program. It ran magnetic flux leakage and crack detection internal inspection tools to check pipe integrity in preparation for safely increasing operating pressures. It also began upgrading its North Dakota pumping stations in Trenton, and Alexander, and began building a new station at East Fork. With these improvements, Enbridge estimates it was able to increase capacity by 8,000 – 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Alexander to Beaver Lodge, ND.
In July and August of 2006, Enbridge hydrostatically pressure tested portions of its North Dakota system and added facilities so drag reducing agents could be added to the crude flow and further increase capacity. Both of these processes allowed Enbridge to increase capacity by 10,000 to 15,000 bpd from Beaver Lodge, ND, to Clearbrook, MN.
Enbridge is also upgrading its Beaver Lodge and Stanley, ND, facilities and adding five new pumping stations between Beaver Lodge and Clearbrook, MN. Adding more horsepower to the existing pipeline is expected to be completed in phases throughout 2007, an improvement that will ultimately increase capacity by 30,000 bpd, with a potential upside of 40,000 bpd in warm-weather months.
Through 2006 and into the third quarter of 2007, Enbridge is installing 52 miles of 10-inch pipeline from Trenton to Beaver Lodge, and upgrading station tankage at Alexander and Trenton. This will also increase the Alexander to Beaver Lodge line capacity by approximately 30,000 bpd, with more potential increases available with the use of drag reducing agents.
Overall, the improvements have increased capacity by 80,000 average barrels per day, and increases are projected to reach 110,000 bpd by the third quarter of 2007, with even more capacity during certain times of the year. Johnson says that Enbridge is already looking ahead at production forecasts and stands ready to expand further, including constructing new pipeline along the current route or extending to tap into new producing fields. “Further expansions will be dependent on how sustained the recent drilling increase is and whether shippers want to commit to the costs of further expansions,” he said.
But for now, he’s happy that everyone has been able to come together to make the expansion possible. “Projects like this require broad shipper support, swift FERC approval of our surcharge on rates so we can recoup and earn on our investment, and a great deal of coordination of permitting agencies and resources, even when the project does not require a significant new pipeline route,” Johnson said. “We have had great support from our shipping community, the state government–everybody involved has contributed to a very cohesive group, pushing in the same direction, to get more capacity. Everybody’s heading in the right direction.”