UPDATE 1-ETP plans new Bakken-to-Gulf Coast pipeline after others fail

Fri Mar 7, 2014 5:40pm EST

NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) - Energy Transfer Partners on Friday announced plans to build an oil pipeline from the Bakken shale in North Dakota to U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries, seeking support for a major new conduit even after rivals dropped similar plans.

Dallas-based ETP said it will launch a so-called open season on March 12 to assess market interest in the project, and said one of the pipeline's destinations will be Sunoco Logistics Partners LP's Nederland, Texas terminal.

A spokeswoman for ETP declined to provide any further details on the project, including what capacity the pipeline might have or when the open season would conclude.

ETP has also been working to develop another major north-south conduit by converting a 30-inch (76-cm) existing natural gas line, known as Trunkline, to ship up to 420,000 barrels-per-day Bakken and Canadian crude from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland.

It was not clear if the two projects were related, although ETP President and Chief Operating Officer Mackie McCrea said on a conference call last month that the company was "looking for supply."

"We are chasing every opportunity and every possible project that could bring deliveries to our Trunkline systems," he said.

The proposed project is among a handful of major infrastructure investments being built or modified to ship fast-growing North American production to refiners along the coasts.

But lately, some pipeline plans have faltered, in part because of the growing popularity of shipping crude by rail, a more flexible but also much more costly mode of transport.

In January, Koch Pipeline Co scrapped plans for a 250,000 bpd pipeline from the Bakken region to Illinois after failing to secure enough customer interest. Months earlier, Oneok Inc shelved a $1.8 billion, 200,000 bpd Bakken-to-Cushing pipeline project.

The future of the oil-by-rail industry is uncertain at the moment as rising public and political outcry following a series of fiery oil-train derailments forces U.S. and Canadian regulators to crack down, including imposing possible tougher tank car requirements that may add to already hefty costs.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved ETP's plan to abandon segments of the natural gas Trunkline and the project will be in service by 2016 if it garners enough market interest, according to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

ETP said that potential shippers that would like to receive copies of the open season documents and proposed tariffs for the new line must first sign a confidentiality agreement.

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