Dakota Access pipeline won’t be shut down immediately


Even if the operator of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota complies with a federal judge to shut down the pipeline, the company contends it will take three months to empty the crude oil line.

The timeline of 86 to 101 days comes as part of the argument Energy Transfer made to a federal judge in an effort to halt an order to shut down the line by Aug. 5 — in about 30 days — for the duration of a lengthy environmental review according to the Bismarck Tribune.

The company says the line must be filled with an inert gas, such as nitrogen, to keep the pipe from corroding if oil no longer flows through it. Energy Transfer outlined the process in a motion filed Wednesday evening in which it asked the judge to put the order on hold while it appeals the decision to a higher court.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the company’s request, effectively putting it in the hands of a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Energy Transfer indicated to the judge that it wishes to make its case to the appellate court as soon as possible, according to court documents.

A company executive wrote in a court filing made public Thursday that while the pipeline operator could turn off the equipment that causes oil to flow through the line by the judge’s deadline, “it is not physically possible to ’empty it of oil’ in the thirty days provided by the order.” The line must undergo a “purge-and-fill process” that involves draining segments of the line one at a time while the pipeline is operating to replace the oil with nitrogen, Vice President of Crude and Liquid Operations Todd Stamm wrote.

An attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Sioux tribes that have fought the pipeline in court for four years said in an interview that the tribes are not “overly worried” about the duration of the shutdown process.

“If it takes longer than 30 days to drain the pipeline of oil, I don’t think that’s a major issue,” said Jan Hasselman, an attorney with Earthjustice who represents the tribes.

Energy Transfer says the shutdown process involves “a number of expensive” steps. The company estimates it will cost $24 million to empty the line of oil and take steps to preserve the pipe. The company adds that to maintain the line, it will incur another $67.5-million expense each year the pipeline remains inoperable.

Energy Transfer also discloses the revenue hit it anticipates during a shutdown, estimating it will lose out on at least $2.8 million every day the line sits idle.

Hasselman acknowledged that there are costs associated with shutting down the line but said the company “has a history of wild exaggeration.”

“We think the claims are overblown,” he said.

Energy Transfer, meanwhile, says it is still taking orders to transport oil in August. The company said in a statement Wednesday that it, however, has “never suggested that we would defy a court order.”

Source: Bismarck Tribune