By Colin Tiernan
Via Wyoming News Exchange
DOUGLAS — They crisscross the county like inelegant streams and rivers, linking oil fields to hubs in an asymmetrical web.
New wells and rigs and gas plants might get more attention, since they stick out on the landscape and turn heads on highways, but pipelines, invisible underground and unheard of unless something goes horribly wrong, represent long-term investments.
The underground labyrinth of Converse County’s pipelines isn’t pretty on a map, but new pipe is an excellent indicator in the world of oil and gas economics. Hundreds of miles of new pipelines mean hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investment in Converse County, and millions more in tax revenue to local governments.
New pipeline projects continue to break ground here in what has seemingly become a monthly, if not weekly, announcement. Converse County Commissioner Jim Willox has happily joked that “magnetic north is changing in Converse County with all the pipe going in the ground.”
In addition to all the pipelines already in construction, Saddle Butte Pipeline is building a 70 mile, 12-inch, steel, crude oil pipeline that will start in Campbell County and will run down to the Natural Bridge Station, roughly halfway betweenDouglas and Glenrock.
The project is a joint venture with Sinclair and will require five crude pump stations, an outlet station and a terminal. The pipeline will run 55 miles in Converse County. Three of the pump stations will be in the county, as well as the outlet station and terminal.
“It’s a little bit more west than most of the gathering in the basin,” Saddle Butte COO David Wait said in a Converse County Commission meeting last week. The north-south pipeline doesn’t run much farther east than the Natural Bridge station.
A variety of companies will move crude through the pipe, and Wait estimates no company will use more than 20 percent of the pipeline capacity.
“We want locally produced, sweet crude only,” Wait said.
Saddle Butte hopes to have the project completed by the end of the year, September at the earliest.
As the commissioners have often noted, 2019 will be busy for the county. The pipeline’s construction could be made more difficult by construction of the Cedar Springs wind farm project that will break ground this year.
The commissioners are generally supportive of pipelines, especially with elevated road traffic making it difficult to maintain roads in the most oil-rich areas of Converse County.
“Your goal of getting trucks off the road is one that we share, that’s for sure,” Willox said to Saddle Butte in the meeting. “That Ross Road, Jenne Trail there, that volume of trucks that are hauling stuff there is just incredible.”