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Enbridge Gives Up $2.6B Oil Pipeline

Forced by unfavorable market conditions and regulatory delays, Enbridge Energy will drop its planned pipeline project Sandpiper that was to transport crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation through Minnesota to Wisconsin, where Enbridge operates a port terminal.

The project has so far cost Enbridge and its partner, refiner Marathon Petroleum, US$800 million. Its total cost was calculated at US$2.6 billion.

The project – like all new pipeline projects – became the target of strong environmental opposition as well as opposition from Native American tribes. It was this opposition that contributed significantly to the regulatory delays. The latest, which forced Enbridge to push forward the launch date for Sandpiper to 2019 before dropping it altogether was due to a pending environmental review.

The president of Enbridge Energy Partners, an affiliate of Enbridge Inc., Mark Maki, told media that the project could be revived at some point in the future, although in early August the company said it will purchase a stake in another crude oil transport project, the Bakken pipeline system. The stake will cost Enbridge US$1.5 billion, which it will pay via Enbridge Energy Partners to get a 27.6-percent interest in the project.

Marathon Petroleum is again partnering with Enbridge on this minority stake acquisition and will spend US$500 million on another 9.2 percent in the Bakken pipeline system. The system will carry crude from the North Dakota fields to refineries in Illinois and Texas, at a daily rate of 470,000 barrels.

The first part of the system is the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, subject of persistent protests from environmentalists and local Native American tribes, and the second is a 700-mile converted gas pipeline that will take the crude from Illinois to Texas.

The combined stake of Enbridge and Marathon Petroleum will make them the second-biggest shareholders in the Bakken pipeline system. The largest is a joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco, holding 38.25 percent.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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