The Dakota Access Pipeline may be stalled for now, but if it is completed, the oil it transports could find its way underneath the backyards of southern Illinois and central Kentucky.
On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement for the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, handing a victory, perhaps only temporarily, to the tribe and its supporters, who had protested the pipeline for months.
The 1,172-mile, 30-inch pipeline would move about 500,000 barrels of oil a day, an amount equivalent to about half North Dakota’s daily output. It could supply several Midwestern refineries with Bakken crude oil from North Dakota.
At the pipeline’s southern terminus, the oil storage hub of Patoka, Illinois, about 75 miles east of St. Louis, existing pipelines fan out in every direction, including to the Gulf Coast, home to half the nation’s refining capacity.
Other pipelines radiating from Patoka supply big refining operations, including Phillips 66 in Wood River, Illinois; BP in Whiting, Indiana; and Marathon in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.
Though the companies don’t disclose details of their petroleum supplies for proprietary reasons, it’s likely that Dakota Access would feed these refineries with the light, sweet Bakken crude.
The Corps of Engineers has said it would find alternate routes for the pipeline in North Dakota. However, President-elect Donald Trump has said he supports the project and could reverse the decision.
Other supporters of the project have claimed that the pipeline would reduce the volume of oil moved by rail.
But the U.S. Energy Information Administration has recorded no recent movements of oil by rail from wells to refineries within the Midwestern petroleum-producing district.
Crude oil movements by rail from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast are a fraction of what they were a year ago, primarily because new pipeline capacity has supplanted trains.