In this week's news update, a short-term energy outlook gives predictions for crude oil prices through 2017, and the North Dakota Public Service Commission will vote soon on the approval of the Bakken Pipeline

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is one step closer to approving what would be the largest crude oil pipeline in the Bakken, but one of the panel’s three members won’t vote on it because a revised route crosses a relative’s property.

After working through some unresolved questions during a work session Jan. 11, the project will be headed to a Jan. 20 vote.

The vote is for a pipeline proposed by Energy Transfer Partners that spans 1,134 miles and would carry Bakken crude from North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, crossing 18 counties in Iowa. The project would initially carry 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Related: Blog: Gas and Oil Fuel North Dakota’s Rise

The project has received regulatory approval from utility commissions in South Dakota and Illinois, but still needs approval in North Dakota and Iowa.

Three Injured In Refinery Fire
A fire left three workers injured Jan. 11 at the Marathon Petroleum Galveston Bay refinery in Texas City, Texas.

According to the company, the fire was reported in a unit down for scheduled maintenance.

Related: GOM Pipelines: Coal Production Down; Refinery Runs To Hit Record High

One worker was transferred to a burn center in Galveston, while two others were treated on site for minor injuries. All three injured were contract employees. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Short-Term Energy Outlook Gives Date to 2017
The Short-Term Energy Outlook, released Jan. 12 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, forecasts Brent crude oil prices will average $40 per barrel in 2016 and $50 in 2017. It’s the first short-term energy outlook to include projections for 2017.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices are expected to be $38 per barrel in 2016 and $47 in 2017.

Related: Bakken Extra: Commission Rules Aimed At Safety

Dickinson State Student Receives First Bakken U Scholarship
A 28-year-old man who came from Wyoming to work in the North Dakota oil patch is going back to college, thanks to a new university system program meant to keep people in the energy industry from leaving the state when times are tough.

Warren Logan is the first scholarship recipient for Bakken U, an initiative to help oilfield workers earn a degree or certificate from one of five colleges and universities in western North Dakota. He will receive $5,000 toward pursuit of a business degree from Dickinson State University. He was awarded the scholarship on Jan. 12.

Logan, who works for Denver-based National Oilwell Varco, said his family wants to stay in Dickinson and he wants to make sure he has a job.

Regulators Will Now Give Written Reason for Oilfield Fines
North Dakota regulators announced Jan. 11 that written justification will be provided if fines and other sanctions are lowered against companies that violate the state’s oil and gas laws.

The policy change comes amid public criticism for easing penalties as much as 90 percent against companies involved in spills and other violations. Regulators said it promotes cooperation and ensures sites are cleaned up.

Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, told reporters that he will provide the documentation on all future cases.

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