BISMARCK – The North Dakota Public Service Commission approved more than $2 billion in energy-related projects in 2015, the agency said this week.
The siting permits approved last year included 16 transmission pipelines totaling more than 495 miles, including both new projects and pipelines that were converted to transmission pipelines.
“Despite low oil prices, companies continue to invest in major new projects that provide critical infrastructure such as pipelines, gas plants and electric generation facilities to serve energy development and growth,” said Commission Chairman Julie Fedorchak.
The amount of new projects approved in 2015 was slightly down from 2014’s total of $2.7 billion, but still significantly higher than 2013 when the agency approved more than $1 billion in projects.
Other siting permits approved in 2015 included about 245 megawatts of gas-fired generation, two natural gas processing plant expansion projects, two new electric transmission lines and two wind farms with about 250 megawatts of generating capacity.
“These are the projects that will make our energy systems safer, more efficient, and less of a burden for the general public,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann.
Fedorchak, who spoke this week during the Northwest Landowners Association expo in Stanley, said when commissioners approve major pipeline projects, they require companies to meet criteria on pipeline installation and reclamation. The agency also uses third-party pipeline inspectors to monitor the work.
Fedorchak pointed out that construction on the most significant North Dakota crude oil pipelines is still yet to come.
The largest pipeline approved last year, the Dakota Access pipeline, is awaiting regulatory approval in Iowa before construction can begin. Similarly, Enbridge is waiting to start construction on the Sandpiper until it receives approval in Minnesota.
Another major project the PSC anticipates to consider in the near future is the Upland Pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp., the same company behind the Keystone XL. The Upland project would potentially carry oil from the Williston area north to connect with other pipelines that reach markets in eastern Canada and the eastern U.S.
The project, which would initially transport 220,000 barrels per day, is scheduled to go into service in 2020. TransCanada says on its website it plans to apply to the PSC by 2018 and start construction in 2019.
“Those are some pretty big lines still yet to come, so we want to have all the tools in place to have the best possible outcome for those projects,” Fedorchak said.