On July 9, the Des Moines Register reported that a Texas-based, Fortune 500 company, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), is planning to build a crude oil pipeline that would deliver a minimum of 320,000 barrels of oil 1,100 miles from the hydraulic fracturing Bakkan oil production fields in North Dakota to a relay facility in Patoka, Illinois and eventually to the Texas’s Gulf Coast refineries where much of it is likely to be exported. To do this, the company will lay a 30-inch diameter pipeline through 17 Iowa counties from Sioux City to Ft. Madison cutting a 150-foot wide right of way and a permanent 50 foot wide easement through public and private properties including miles of Iowa farmland. As a comparison, the ETP pipeline could carry three times the amount of oil than the proposed controversial Keystone XL. http://oilpatchdispatch.areavoices.com/2014/06/26/energy-transfer-proposes-crude-oil-pipeline
Who is Energy Transfer Partners? ETP is a Dallas, Texas-based company that includes 17 subsidiaries that own or operate 35,000 miles of oil, gas, and liquid propane pipelines, as well as partnerships for distribution and retail operations. According to Zack’s Equity Research, ETP is “a master limited partnership (MLP) engaged primarily in the gathering, processing, storage and transportation of natural gas. Additionally, the partnership holds a 70% stake in Lone Star NGL LLC, a joint venture that owns and operates natural gas liquids (NGL) storage, fractionation and transportation assets in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.” Subsidiaries and partners are: CDM, ETC Endure Energy, ET Rover Pipeline, ETT, Fayetteville Express Pipeline, Florida Gas Transmission Company, Lone Star NGL, Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line, PEI Power, Regency Energy Partners, Sea Robin Pipeline Company, SEC, Southern Union Gas Services, Sunoco, Inc., Sunoco Logistics, Transwestern Pipeline Company, Trunkline Gas Company, and Trunkline LNG. http://zcom.zacks.com/ZER/free_report
ETP was started by CEO Kelcey Warren and according to Forbes, “co-founded natural-gas pipeline firm Energy Transfer Partners with Ray C. Davis in 1995; he bought struggling gas assets and linked them into an efficient system.” Warren has been in the oil and natural gas business since 1978, as well as owning a record company in Austin, TX. Warren whose net worth by Forbes as of July 13, 2014 was estimated to be $5.8 billion (#116 on the list of wealthiest Americans). ETP itself had assets of over $43 billion as of December 2013. http://www.forbes.com/profile/kelcy-warren/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelcy Warren
Energy Transfer Partners have been growing steadily and in the last several years, thanks to a favorable domestic exploration environment and a need to transport more and more natural gas. Energy production is experiencing a huge boom. For example, in 2013, the United States overtook Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer as output from shale, much of it from the Bakkan and the Eagle Rock fields in Texas, has led according to leading U.S. energy consultancy PIRA. “U.S. output, which includes natural gas liquids and biofuels, has swelled 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd) since 2009, the fastest expansion in production over a four-year period since a surge in Saudi Arabia’s output from 1970-1974, PIRA said in a release on Tuesday. “While still the largest consumer of fuel, the rise of cheap crude available to domestic refiners has turned the United States into a significant exporter of gasoline and distillate fuels and China has surpassed the United States as the largest importer of crude.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/15/us-oil-pira-idUSL1N0I51IX20131015
A publicly- traded company, shares of ETP stock have increased from $20 a share in 1996 to over $58 at the close of the market on Friday, Sept. 12. http://finance.yahoo.com/
What should likely concern Iowans and the Iowa’s Public Utility Commission are ETP’s growing pains which have been documented in various publications and include a number of accidents that have led to environmental damage, widespread property damage, and even injury and loss of human life. Keeping in mind that pipeline companies do difficult and dangerous work, in fact, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the number of fatal work injury cases in the oil and gas extraction industries rose to all-time high of 138 in 2012 from 112 in 2011, the question should be how does ETP stack up both in terms of safety and environmental impact. From 2009 to 2012 the industry added 23 percent more workers but in 2012, 138 workers were killed on the job — an increase of more than 100 percent since 2009,” wrote Andrew Schneider and Marilyn Geewax for NPR . “In fact, the fatality rate among oil and gas workers is now nearly eight times higher than the all-industry rate of 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 workers.” http://www.npr.org/2013/12/27/250807226/on-the-job-deaths-spiking-as-oil-drilling-quickly-expands
To give a sense of proportion about property damage and workplace injury, according to ProPublica, Iowa had $10.7 million in damages between 2009 and 2012 and 4 injuries due to oil and hazardous material pipeline accidents. The Des Moines Register recent article more damningly stated “damages resulted in nearly $20 million in property damage, spilling a total of 10,712 gross barrels of hazardous liquids onto Iowa property, according to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.” http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2014/09/07/iowa
One of ETP’s subsidiaries Sea Robin Pipeline alone has had over $84 million in damages and 2 injuries in its past. Beyond that, are a series of incidents involving ETP projects that are summarized below:
- Fire at facility caused by a natural gas compression unit that caught fire. January 17, 2013. http://www.madisonvillemeteor.com/news/article.html
- Gas explosion in Missouri. November 28, 2013. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-18/news/sns-rt-explosion-louisianaenergytransfer
- Gas pipeline explosion in Louisiana that caused rerouting of gas and destruction of a mobile home. June 18, 2013. http://oilpro.com/post/386/major-pipeline-explosion-in-Louisiana
- Sealy Texas explosion in rural area. August 5, 2010. http://www.sealynews.com/news/article.html
- Natural gas pipeline explosion in Cleburne, TX, $1,029,000 damages. June 7, 2010. http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2013.pdf
- 1 person killed , 3 injured in Mississippi . Contractors working at a ETP pipeline caused an explosion. July 16, 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=conewsstory
- Near Luling, Texas natural gas pipeline explosion that shot natural gas flames 400 feet into the air. August 38, 2008. http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/08/28/pipelines-operations-energytransfer;
Many of the incidents involving ETP cited here are at pressurized natural gas or liquid gas facilities, the question is what about crude oil facilities? The best example of what could be of concern does not involve ETP, who are relatively new at moving crude oil. However in Michigan one of ETP’s competitors, a Canadian firm, Enbridge is still dealing with the cleanup of the Kalamazoo River that was caused when it’s crude oil pipeline leaked there in 2010 causing over $809 million in clean up efforts. As Inside Climate News reported, “under orders from the EPA, Enbridge used an even more intrusive method in 2011 to clean up Talmadge Creek, a Kalamazoo tributary that received the brunt of the damage from the ruptured pipeline. The creek was so badly contaminated that Enbridge had to essentially rebuild two miles of it” http://insideclimatenews.org/news/dilbit-6B-pipeline-kalamazoo-river-enbridge-oil-spill-michigan-keystone-xl-epa.
The parallels to the project that is planned for Iowa include the acquisition of farmland through eminent domain which as awarded by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must approve the projects by granting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. While the landowner must be compensated for the loss of access to their property, they have no say over where the pipeline is constructed. In an interesting twist, ETP is now in the same area in Michigan and is the process of putting new pipeline through the area where Enbridge is still cleaning up and is seeking FERC’s approval to access the existing right-of-ways.
Whether ETP will prove to be a good partner in Iowa is an unknown. As previously noted, their industry track record is far from stellar. One thing that is a certainty, the risks to the state’s natural resources and well-being of Iowans hang in the balance. Any decision that is made will have repercussions for many years to come. Concerned Iowans should visit the Iowa Public Utility Board who posted on their website:
“Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., has publicly announced a proposal to build a crude oil pipeline across Iowa (Bakken Pipeline), but the regulatory process of requesting a permit from the Iowa Utilities Board, pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 479B, for construction and operation of the proposed line has not begun. The Board will begin receiving statements in support or objections to the project when a case is initiated and an official record is opened with the Board. “ However, informational meetings are required in all counties that will be affected by the pipeline prior to application for a permit. owevwHMore on that process can be found at: http://www.state.ia.us/government/com/util/docs/permit_process.pdf .