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Con: Oil should be shipped by barge, truck or rail

By Sara Sneath , SARA PRIEST
Aug. 31, 2014 at 6:21 p.m.

What is condensate?

Natural-gas condensate is a low-density mixture of hydrocarbon liquids that are present as gaseous components in the raw natural gas produced from many natural-gas fields. It condenses out of the raw gas if the temperature is reduced to below the hydrocarbon dew point temperature of the raw gas.

The natural-gas condensate is also referred to as simply condensate, gas condensate or sometimes natural gasoline because it contains hydrocarbons within the gasoline boiling range. Raw natural gas may come from any one of three types of gas wells:

• Crude oil wells - Raw natural gas that comes from crude oil wells is called associated gas. This gas can exist separate from the crude oil in the underground formation or dissolved in the crude oil. Condensate produced from oil wells is often referred to as lease condensate.

• Dry gas wells - These wells typically produce only raw natural gas that does not contain any hydrocarbon liquids. Such gas is called nonassociated gas. Condensate from dry gas is extracted at gas processing plants and, hence, is often referred to as plant condensate.

• Condensate wells - These wells produce raw natural gas along with natural gas liquid. Such gas is also non-associated gas and often referred to as wet gas.

Source: The Energy Information administration, U.S. Crude Oil Production Forecast: Analysis of Crude Types

The prospect of the Keystone XL pipeline has raised concerns over the most common method of oil transit.

In the context of the 175,000 miles of oil pipeline and more than 2 million miles of natural gas pipelines, spills are uncommon.

But they're not unheard of.

From 2009 to 2013, 601 significant pipeline spills were reported in the U.S. These incidents resulted in 14 deaths, 67 injuries, about $510 million worth of damage and 81,982 barrels of oil spilled, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

In late January, a pipeline carrying condensate ruptured on Patsy Warzecha's property, about about 6 miles southwest of Westhoff. The spill affected about 5 acres of her land and a small pond.

"A 2-foot square would be too much, frankly," Warzecha said.

Warzecha was on vacation when the rupture happened and was shocked to hear a break was possible on a pipeline that was only about a 11/2 years old, she said.

Two other pipeline ruptures in DeWitt County happened in about a four-month period, according to Railroad Commission of Texas records. The spills were the result of corrosion issues in portions of BHP Billiton Petroleum's underground gathering pipeline system in rural DeWitt County, Maripat Sexton, the company's spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

The effected sections of the pipelines were immediately shut down, government authorities notified and cleanup efforts initiated, she wrote.

"We have engaged with regulatory authorities and landowners since we first became aware of this issue. BHP Billiton is conducting a full investigation and has mobilized a dedicated team to assess this pipeline system and implement a remediation plan," Sexton wrote.

Tank vessels and barges spill less per ton of oil moved 1 mile than pipelines, railroad cars or trucks, according to data compiled by the Congressional Research Service. Railroad cars also spill less than pipelines, which spill less than trucks.

The Eagle Ford's proximity to ports makes transit by barge a viable option.

Three years ago, the Port of Victoria had no history of shipping oil, port spokesman Mike Sizemore said. But after the first year of Eagle Ford production, the Port of Victoria shipped about a million barrels per month to refineries in Louisiana and Houston.

Last year alone, the port shipped about 18 million barrels, and at a rate of more than 2 million barrels per month, the port expects to surpass that number this year.

Barging oil and natural gas is cheaper than rail and truck transit and emits less, Sizemore said. Railroad transit requires building and maintaining tracks, but the ocean is free.

"It just takes longer. It's a slow process," Sizemore said of shipping oil by barge.

Pipelines are still being built to move oil from production sites to the port, which currently receives cargo by truck.



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