Oneok begins land acquisition process for new pipeline

By Sarah Pridgeon

Oneok Partners expects to begin construction of its new pipeline through Crook County later this year, representatives told the County Commissioners last week. The company has launched an outreach program for landowners along the planned route as it prepares to acquire land rights for the Elk Creek Pipeline.

The new 20-inch pipeline will transport natural gas liquids from the Rocky Mountain region past the termination of Oneok’s Bakken Pipeline in Colorado and ending in Kansas at the company’s NGL facilities.

“It parallels in its entirety the original Bakken Pipeline,” said Dick Vanderbush, Director of Project Development.

Oneok has been meeting with landowners along that route and holding meetings to hear questions, concerns and feedback from the previous project to install the Bakken line. The same landowners will be involved in the new project for the most part because, said Vanderbush, the company plans to offset the new line by around 50 feet from the Bakken line, a “comfort level” for safety and integrity that can be adjusted where necessary at the request of landowners or where the terrain makes it necessary to diverge.

“We are open to other re-routing options and will consider those,” he said. “It’s literally case by case.”

Vanderbush estimated that Oneok will be working with between 50 and 55 landowners on obtaining easements, negotiating with them individually or in landowner groups. At the present time, he said, the company is out seeking permission to survey and is hoping to launch that process in Kansas within the next couple of weeks, working north along the route.

Oneok is expecting that the pipeline will require two construction seasons, Vanderbush said, with the Kansas leg installed this summer. Based on the response from landowners, he continued, the company is hoping that some level of activity will be seen in the northern portion this coming fall and that the pipeline will go into service in the latter part of 2019.

The construction sequence will begin with staking the pipeline route and then grading and clearing the right of way; then, sections of pipe will be laid along the right of way and joints will be bent and welded to form a continuous segment that conforms to the contours of the land. These sections will be x-rayed to verify integrity, coated to protect against corrosion and lowered into trenches with specialty equipment.

“We’re actively working through the access road side of this,” Vanderbush told the commissioners, referring to the process by which the county approves pipeline installations along or across county roads. At the present time, he said, a team is evaluating the primary access routes that will be needed across federal, private and public land.

New pump stations will also be required for the pipeline, Vanderbush said. The design allows for three pump stations along the route for the initial barrels-per-day goal; more pump stations will then be required if Oneok chooses to bump up that total, with the plan to position them adjacent to the existing pump stations for the Bakken line.

Danette Welsh, Government Relations Manager, assured the county commissioners that Oneok is keen to gather input regarding the project from the county and landowners alike.

“Anything you have concerns about – anything – we want to hear about it,” she said. She said that the company has already noted and looked into concerns about worker behavior during the Bakken installation and updated information for the county’s emergency plan.

Meanwhile, said Vanderbush, Oneok will share information with the county as it is able to provide a more solid timeline for the county.