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Energy group gauges interest in possible pipeline

By Staff | Feb 21, 2020

An energy transportation service provider has begun efforts to gauge interest in a pipeline that would pass through northern Pierce County to carry natural gas from Tioga to northwestern Minnesota.

WBI, Inc., a subsidiary of MDU Resources Group in Bismarck, announced the start of a “non-binding open season” on proposed natural gas transportation from oil producers in western North Dakota to a central hub near the Emerson, Manitoba, area, just over the border from Minnesota.

“The non-binding season is to gauge customer interest in the project,” explained Laura Lueder of WBI. “It’s going to help WBI Energy determine if there’s enough interest to proceed with a binding open season. During the binding open season, customers would commit to utilizing the pipe through contracts.”

“Customers for WBI Energy are gas shippers. They would be oil and gas producers or energy marketers,” Lueder added.

Information on WBI’s website states the open season began Jan. 10 and ends Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. Central time. A form for interested shippers to fill out follows the information.

“This is a large interstate natural gas pipeline system built so producers in the Bakken area would be able to ship their natural gas rather than flaring it,” Lueder said. “They’d be able to ship it by pipe.”

Lueder added, “Our proposal is to go from the Tioga area to northwestern Minnesota, which is near the Emerson natural gas hub. Our other large gas pipelines connect at that hub and then the gas moves from there to larger markets, such as Chicago.”

Lueder said although natural gas infrastructure tends to center around large Midwestern cities, “there is potential that this project could provide both state and local opportunities along the route for economic development that would require natural gas service”

“This could include extending natural gas service to North Dakota towns that currently don’t have this,” Lueder added.

“But,” Lueder noted, “WBI is not a local distribution company, so essentially, a town or township would need to establish that local distribution piece.”

Although a map of the project locates the proposed pipeline approximately one mile north of Rugby, Lueder said WBI hasn’t determined any economic impact to the Rugby area.

Lueder noted, “What we’re proposing isn’t final. That said, generally when a project proceeds, construction spans over several months, so there would be construction activity in the area, which, generally speaking, is good for economic activity in those areas.”

“The project’s pipeline route isn’t really set yet,” Lueder added. ” Our proposed route is out on a map on our website. But WBI Energy would determine the actual route of the project working with any interested stakeholders.”

Lueder defined stakeholders as “customers, land owners and state, local and tribal officials.” She said WBI “would determine the best possible route and make sure we’re addressing any possible concerns related to the project.”

Lueder said if plans went ahead for the pipeline in Pierce County, “we would work with local land owners to determine the best possible route. If the pipe were near their land or would cross their land, we would have conversations about what that would look like for them.”

However, Lueder said any actual construction would depend on customer interest.

“It’s sort of the equivalent of a teacher asking, ‘Who wants lunch?’ in the classroom and having the kids raise their hands,” Lueder said. “That’s sort of what we’re doing. We’re asking, ‘Who is interested in capacity on this proposed project?’ We’re asking potential shippers to raise their hand and say yay or nay.”

“Then, Lueder added, “based on that initial poll, that initial response to this non-binding open season, if there is enough interest from shippers, we would then proceed to a binding open season and ask them to commit by contract.”

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