Wyoming, BlM launch pipeline corridor plan

Wednesday , May 16, 2012 - 10:13 AM

Gas Pipeline

In this photo taken Monday, May 7, 2012, sections of pipe are stretched out across the landscape...

Tom Morton

CASPER, Wyo. -- The past few decades may well have been a geologic eon for pipeline evolution.

When Brian Jeffries started in the oil business more than 30 yearsago, engineers would assemble some topographic maps and chart a route from its start to its finish, he said Tuesday.

The company would send surveyors with construction experience to the field, then commence the project, said Jeffries, executive director of the Wyoming Pipeline Authority.

That dinosaur is extinct on federal lands.

"Instead of the engineers deciding where they'd like to put it and the surveyors finalizing it, you go through a process of reviewed land use and the competing use of the land, and you come to a determination of where it's allowed to go," Jeffries said.

That's because the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management looks at sage grouse, raptor nests, soil and topography erosion, scenery, historic trails, agriculture, mining, motortravel restrictions, wilderness study areas, backcountry byways and more.

In their efforts to consider all land uses, the 10 BLM offices in Wyoming have acted independently in determining potential underground pipeline corridors, and sometimes they don't align with corridors determined in neighboring BLM districts.

"We have this amazing mismatch of pathways," Jeffries said. "Correcting the gaps isn't easy."

That frustrates businesses interested in sending carbon dioxide to old oil fields to recover oil that conventional methods could not reach, he said.

Gov. Matt Mead recently called for the Wyoming Pipeline Authority, in conjunction with the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources and the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, to work with the BLM to establish a unified plan for pipeline corridors for CO2 transmission.

CO2 could help recover between 800 million and 2 billion barrels ofoil in the Big Horn Basin, said Rob Hurless of the UW School of Energy Resources and Mead's energy adviser.

Companies wouldn't need to use the corridors established in this statewide effort, but it would help them save time in the permitting process, Hurless said.

While data collection has begun, Jeffries said the Pipeline Authority will be filing a National Environmental Protection Act application. The process could take between three and five years tocomplete, but it would save companies years in their future permitting processes, he said. NEPA dictates the federalenvironmental review process for this project, just like other energy projects on federal lands.

No BLM representatives apparently attended the Pipeline Authority'smeeting at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Tuesday in Casper. But the bureau anticipates working with the state to fix the problems for CO2 pipelines, said state BLM spokeswoman BeverlyGorny.

Some BLM offices already are revising their corridors, Gorny said. "They are looking at edge-matching the resource issues."

After the Pipeline Authority meeting, Duane Zavadil of the Bill Barrett Corp. said he knew of no other state working with the BLM to create a unified system of pipeline corridors.

"Wyoming is very progressive in these public lands issues," Zavadil said.

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