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Dean Hulse, Published June 01 2013

Letter: Keystone XL won’t live up to promises

Lynn Helms, North Dakota’s mineral resources director, is making claims about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that are misleading. North Dakotans should expect better from their bureaucrats.

Helms contends that Keystone XL will carry at least 60,000 barrels per day of North Dakota Bakken crude and perhaps as much as 100,000 barrels per day. That volume could remove 300 to 500 oil trucks per day from western North Dakota roads.

But there’s a problem with Helms’ calculations. It’s called reality. Helms’ assessment neglects the fact that Montana has a stake in this project, too. Because the pipeline crosses Montana and not North Dakota, Helms’ assertion that the majority of Bakken crude flowing through the pipeline will come from North Dakota seems more like supposition.

Coincidentally, Helms was recently quoted in a petroleum industry magazine as saying that North Dakota’s oil production should exceed 850,000 barrels per day by 2015. According to Helms’ own statistics, North Dakota produced about 728,000 barrels of oil per day in 2012.

So, even if 100,000 barrels per day of Keystone XL capacity were dedicated solely to North Dakota Bakken crude, it would be more than offset by increased production.

Furthermore, The Forum reported in March that North Dakota’s oil industry used at least 5.4 billion gallons of water in 2012, about 70 percent of which (3.8 billion gallons) went directly for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” That annual demand for water equals a thirst of about 10.4 million gallons a day.

If a tanker truck can carry 5,500 gallons of water, then fracking activities in North Dakota put about 1,890 trucks a day on western North Dakota roads in 2012.

If oil production grows from 728,000 barrels per day to more than 850,000 barrels per day by 2015 – an increase of about 17 percent – then we can expect to see an additional 300, or more, water tankers on western North Dakota roads. Per day.

At best, Keystone XL will maintain the status quo. At worst … well, that thought implies a laundry list of subjects for several more letters.


Hulse, Fargo, is an author, environmental activist and North Dakota landowner.