by Tom Magness, Real Clear Energy - May 16, 2018
Over the past several months, Louisianans have heard a lot of debate about the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a nearly 170-mile transport line that will move crude oil products from the Clifton Ridge Marine Terminal in Lake Charles to refining facilities near St. James. Unfortunately, what is too often missing from the public conversation is the science, engineering, and fact-based planning of the pipeline itself.
While opponents have been successful in framing discussions around alarm-raising parameters, the realities of Bayou Bridge tell a different story. When examined on merit, the pipeline is a critical piece of infrastructure that will bolster the state's energy security, foster economic growth, and help modernize Louisiana's energy grid.
The Bayou Bridge project originated out of the need to diversify the state's crude oil supply. The line will be capable of transporting up to 480,000 barrels of crude petroleum products per day, which will feed regional refineries and ultimately consumer markets. A $750 million investment, nearly all of which will stay in Louisiana, will generate nearly $18 million in estimated sales tax. Construction will support as many as 2,500 jobs and $71 million in landowner payments, in addition to $35 million spent with Louisiana-based companies for project materials.
That contribution to Louisiana's economy is significant. Even so, it should not overshadow the rigorous study and planning that went into the approval of the project. Like any major pipeline, Bayou Bridge underwent an exhaustive review process at the federal level with thorough vetting by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps' evaluation carefully considered potential environmental impacts, both under likely scenarios and unanticipated circumstances. The assessment concluded that the project adequately accounts for environmental sensitivities; employs the best practices to reduce risk and respond in case of an incident; and minimizes the footprint along the proposed route. This last point should not be missed. Before any discussion of mitigation, the Army Corps process first examines every effort to minimize environmental impacts.
Specifically, the Corps' report notes the use of horizontal directional drilling (HDD), a technique widely used in a number of industry for protecting vulnerable landscapes like aquifers and high water tables. By boring around or under features that otherwise could be damaged, HDD enables developers to install pipe with minimal disruption. The trenchless drilling "is inherently not a risk to groundwater resources," the report notes, and reduces impacts by allowing builders to lay the infrastructure without digging up large swaths of ground.
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