It has been interesting to follow the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) over the past few years. Now that the pipeline has been operating commercially for over six months, it’s a good time to reflect on lessons that the oil and gas industry can learn from the project. Although the project was successfully completed and calls for a celebration throughout the industry, it also raised some red flags and potential roadblocks for projects moving forward.
The Dakota Access Pipeline
DAPL was a project that gained significant notoriety in the American media. The project, which cost $3.8 billion, proved to be the safest, most effective, and most environmentally-conscious way to move crude oil directly from American wells to consumers. The pipeline was heavily analyzed and reviewed prior to construction.
Approval for the project was granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and regulators in many states, including
• North Dakota
• South Dakota
The project became a media talking point because of a portion of the pipeline near Lake Oahe. Contrary to what was often reported, the pipeline was constructed on almost entirely private land, much of which had already been used for utility easements. DAPL does not run across the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. This tribe was consulted nearly a dozen times via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the pipeline route was finalized.
Lessons To Be Learned From The Project
The attention that DAPL received means that there are a number of lessons to be learned.
First and foremost, because of the media attention surrounding the pipeline, members of the oil and gas pipeline industry must now accept that, over the coming years, it will be more difficult to receive approval for industry pipelines. DAPL proved that the oil and gas pipeline industry’s staunchest opponents feel their points are valid and will fight future projects.
Similarly, members of the industry must recognize that there is more attention being placed on climate change. While there are various scientific studies that both support and discredit climate change, the fact of the matter is climate change as a whole has become more mainstream. The number of individuals who support clean energy in an effort to reduce carbon emissions is growing daily. Climate change supporters will offer increasing resistance to the oil and gas pipeline industry.
Moving forward, the best thing that members of the industry can do, for now, is to recognize the strategy that opponents are going to use. The founder of one anti fossil-fuel group said that his group was going to fight every single piece of fossil-fuel infrastructure. These tactics are not based on merit or facts, but rather an emotion. Arguably, that was the biggest issue with DAPL. People failed to recognize the many benefits the pipeline had but rather fabricated an issue at Lake Oahe to support their cause. These groups will continually utilize delay tactics as a mean to slow, or potentially entirely block, new projects.