Crude Oil Pipeline Route to Skirt Aquifer Recharge Zone, Company Says

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Lush hills sit near the area in Bandera County where a proposed crude oil pipeline would cross on its route from West Texas to south of San Antonio.

The new route for a planned crude oil pipeline will avoid the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and contributing zones, the Houston-based company behind the project said Friday.

Enterprise Product Partners originally had proposed a pipeline from Midland that would have cut across the recharge zone on its way to South Texas, prompting concerns about potential danger to San Antonio’s water supply.

“The proposed route for this pipeline would originate from our Midland terminal and tie into our Eagle Ford system in South Texas,” Enterprise CEO Jim Teague stated in a press release Friday. “The route would avoid the Edwards Aquifer, including its recharge and contribution zones.”

Rick Rainey, vice president of public relations for Enterprise, told the Rivard Report that the company has not finalized its new pipeline route yet. The project is still in its early stages, and Enterprise has not surveyed all the parcels of land it needs to in order to begin construction, he said.

“Typically when you choose a route, the first step is to seek permission to survey [the land],” Rainey said. “That gives us the information we need to determine the best route going through that particular area.”

Enterprise’s survey notifications alerted Hill Country landowners in Bandera County to plans for the pipeline last month. Dan Hord, who owns land near Vanderpool, said Hill Country residents were most concerned that the pipeline could have a negative environmental impact on the aquifer recharge zone if Enterprise decided to build over the area.

“It’s just being sensitive to the aquifer,” Hord said Thursday. “That was the general consensus. I don’t think anyone in our group was opposed to pipelines and/or to the oil and gas business.”

Rainey said Enterprise plans for the pipeline to pass the western side of the Edwards Aquifer before heading south. The new pipeline will connect with its Eagle Ford crude oil pipeline system, which transports crude oil for South Texas producers. The connection also allows oil to be transported to South Texas from the Echo Terminal, Enterprise’s Houston-area facility.

“We have pipelines in South Texas that serve the Eagle Ford shale, which is another prolific basin, along with the Permian [Basin],” Rainey explained. “This project will actually complement that and give a little flexibility to our shippers who will either transport their Eagle Ford barrels or Permian barrels.”

After the Enterprise determines where to place the pipeline, the company will work with landowners for right-of-way to access the land for construction, maintenance, and repairs of the pipeline, Rainey said. The pipeline will still likely cross waterways such as rivers and streams, though Rainey stressed that Enterprise follows all guidelines as to how deep to drill and how far from the riverbank to keep crude oil pipelines. 

“We have experience in crossing rivers,” Rainey said. “We have the equipment and safety procedures in place to make sure we can build safely.”

Enterprise does not know yet how many miles of new pipeline will be built, Rainey said.

This new pipeline will allow Enterprise to return its Seminole Red pipeline back to natural liquid gas purposes if necessary. Enterprise converted the Seminole pipeline to transport crude oil earlier in 2019 after the Midland to Houston market needed more capacity.

“With this project, new pipeline, it’ll give us the flexibility to go back to natural liquid gas or crude oil [transport], depending on what the market wants us to do,” Rainey said.

Teague said in a Friday news release that crude oil and natural liquid gas production from the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford is expected to increase to 5 million barrels per day by 2025, and building a new crude oil pipeline would allow the company to keep up with demand. 

Enterprise began planning the new pipeline after a producer asked the company for a way to transport 450,000 barrels a day to the Gulf Coast, Rainey said. The new pipeline can carry up to 450,000 barrels of oil per day and can be expanded to transport 540,000 barrels per day.

Hill Country landowners said they were ecstatic Thursday to hear that Enterprise would redirect its new pipeline away from the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Much of the recharge and contribution zones are protected by conservation easements held by the City of San Antonio, but the City Attorney’s office was still researching how those easements would impact any development like a pipeline, Parks and Recreation Interim Director Homer Garcia III said Thursday.

Enterprise expects to begin using its new pipeline in the first half of 2021.

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