All eyes have been on the Dakota Access pipeline protest, but, in the meantime, Energy Transfer Partners has been working on what is its other half  — the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline Project, which will carry oil from the Dakota Access endpoint in Illinois to a terminalling facility in the Gulf Coast.

This almost never mentioned $1 billion dollar project added 66 miles of new 30-inch diameter pipeline to an existing 678-mile natural gas pipeline that has since been converted to oil transportation. 

The ETCO line crosses 131 miles in Illinois, 51 in Kentucky, 110 in Tennessee, 151 in Mississippi, 20.27 in Arkansas, 236 in Louisiana and 43 to Nederland, Texas.

While some media reports indicated Dakota Access is in service, that is not the case. The company has put oil under Lake Oahe at this time, according to court documents, and is working on its commissioning process. 

Generally, companies fill a crude oil line one section at a time to further ensure that everything is working properly in that section before proceeding to another adjacent section.

Energy Transfer Partners is working to commission both lines in its Bakken system simultaneously. Company spokeswoman Vicki Granado said the company estimates they will be finished with the Dakota Access portion of the Bakken system by mid-April, and the ETCO portion by June 1, putting the whole system in service at that time. 

The Bakken system is capable of transporting up to 570,000 barrels of oil daily to refineries that handle light sweet crude to the Gulf Coast, and industry leaders have said it is crucial to the Bakken’s logistics and supply chain. It will  lower transportation costs for crude oil by about $7 per barrel, according to an estimate by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. 

The company so far has nine long-term contracts for the line, most of which have already been before the North Dakota Public Service Commission for approval of connections to Dakota Access.

Energy Transfer Partners is now behind schedule by about one year, which it estimated in court documents cost the enterprise more than a half billion dollars. 

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe meanwhile said they were disappointed to hear that oil is now under Lake Oahe, but that they would continue their legal battle against Dakota Access.

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe would like to reiterate that while this is a setback — and a frightening one at that — we will not stop at any cost,” a media release from the tribe states. “Just because oil flow is pending does not mean that it cannot be stopped by court order, and we have a strong ongoing case in front of the courts at this moment. We will exhaust every appeal. We ask that our allies around the world continue to stand with us and voice your opinions about the current threat against the drinking water of millions of American citizens.”

The tribe also called for stiff opposition to dozens of other projects that it said “endanger health and human welfare in the name of corporate interests and government corruption” and commended banks that have been pulling out of investments related to energy infrastructure.

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