The Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172 mile-long underground oil pipeline project in the US, has attracted considerable international attention recently due to its impact on the environment. The $3.78bn project faced opposition from many Native Americans tribes. More than 92% of the pipeline has been already been built but small section to be built under Lake Oahe is now stuck in controversy.


Construction of the Dakota Access (Bakken Oil) Pipeline between farmland near New Salem, North Dakota. Photo courtesy of Tony Webster/Flickr

Here are 10 quick facts about Dakota Access Pipeline project

Fact I

The Energy Transfer Partners-owned pipeline is designed to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day, with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels.  The 30-inch pipeline is being constructed by Dakota Access and the other partners in the project include Phillips 66, Enbridge, and Marathon Petroleum.

Fact II

On 25 June 2014, Energy Transfer Partners approved the construction of a nearly 1,100 mile crude oil pipeline (Bakken Pipeline) to transport crude supply from strategic receipt points in the Bakken/Three Forks production area in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. From Patoka, shippers will be able to access multiple markets, including Midwest markets and East Coast markets by rail as well as the Gulf Coast, via Trunkline, to the Nederland, Texas crude oil terminalling facility of Sunoco Logistics Partners. While 99.98% of the pipeline is claimed to pass through privately owned property in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, the remaining part is installed on the property owned by the US Federal Government.

Oil transportation from North Dakota’s Bakken oil field. Photo courtesy Roy Luck/Wiki

Fact III

In August 2016, MarEn Bakken Company signed an agreement with Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners to acquire 36.75% interest in the Bakken Pipeline Project in the US for $2bn. The Bakken Pipeline Project includes development of the Dakota Access pipeline and the Energy Transfer crude oil pipeline projects.

Fact IV

Bakken Holdings Company, a joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, owns 75% stake in the Bakken Pipeline Project while the remaining stake is held by wholly-owned subsidiaries of Phillips 66. While $2.5bn of the total cost of the project was financed through loans, the remaining part would be covered from stake sale in Dakota Access to Enbridge and Marathon Petroleum.

Dakota Access Pipeline route. Photo courtesy of NittyG/Wiki

Fact V

The Dakota Access Pipeline is estimated to eliminate 500-740 rail cars and/or more than 250 trucks required to transport light, sweet crude oil produced in the US. The huge reserve oil in Bakken formation spread across 200,000 square miles in North Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan, Canada are transported through trucks or rail to refineries located in different parts of the country.  Currently about 70% of the Bakken oil is transported through rail. Though rail offers more convenient way to transport oil through tank cars, it is far costlier an option compared to pipeline. Dakota Access claimed in its economic report that it will offer a cheaper alternative for shipping crude oil to domestic refiners. The proponents say that the pipeline will free up the rail lines, allowing farmers in the region to transport more grain. However both these options have their inherent risks, as in 2013 a North Dakota oil train derailed and burnt 47 people in a town in Quebec while safety records of Sunoco Logistics, the future operator of the project, is questioned by the opponents for the numerous leaks happened at its onshore pipelines in past few years.

Dakota Access Pipe Line construction in Central Iowa. Photo courtesy of Carl Wycoff from Nevada, USA/Wiki

Fact VI

The pipeline is expected to have a capacity to transport half of the total current production coming from the Bakken shale formation. During the construction, the Dakota Access Pipeline is claimed to have already created nearly 12,000 jobs and it is seen as important link from the Bakken formation. After the construction, the pipeline is expected to support 160 jobs for operation and maintenance of the pipeline. Opponents however question the job generation potential of the project.

Fact VII

The project has political overtones, as in December 2016, the US Army rejected an easement approval for the proposed $3.7bn pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe. But it finally granted the final easement approval in February 2017, following the signing of an executive order by the US President Donald Trump to advance the construction. Easement is a special permit which will allow the developers of the project to route the pipeline through private land. On January 24 this year, Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum (PM) to the Secretary of the Army detailing the procedures to be taken to speed up the approval for the pipeline. The PM was seen as a move to clear confusion over the issuance of the permits and easements to Dakota Access, during the fag end of Obama tenure.


Most vocal protest came from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe which believes that the pipeline will be threat to Lake Oahe and regional water resources. The protest grew with joining of other Native American tribes and the protesters camping in chilly winter weather to oppose the project attracted large media attention. Though the pipeline is facing challenge to cross the final hurdle, it passes under hundred other water bodies, apart from Lake Oahe. Near James River, the pipeline route was to be modified to avoid water bodies, which elongated the length by two miles. In other places, the pipeline was to be rerouted due to its proximity to water bodies including the stretch near Bismarck.

Donald Trump signs Executive Orders. Photo courtesy The White House Facebook page/Wiki

Fact IX

According to media reports, Donald Trump owned between $15,000-$50,000 shares in Energy Transfer Partners, which he later sold. He also pared his stake from $500,000 to $1m he owned in 2015. Amidst political one-upmanship, the ownership of Donald Trump created media controversy. There were also media controversies regarding his stake in Phillips 66, and Energy Transfer Partners CEO’s donation to Trump’s campaign.

Fact X

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers), a $300bn fund joined with more than 100 investors, calling US international banks funding the Dakota Access Pipeline to put pressure on the companies to get the pipeline rerouted to address the concerns of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The investors have called banks to take steps to protect their reputation, consumer base and legal liabilities. Banks are often been targeted for funding the project.  Earlier this month, Nordea bank had asked its fund management division not to invest in the pipeline after Trump’s push for the project. Previously, Norway based bank DNB had sold its assets in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which reportedly funding 10% of the cost.