NORTH LITTLE ROCK - A newly completed pipeline extension will bring up to 75,000 barrels a day of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel into Arkansas, state and company officials said Wednesday.
Tulsa, Okla.-based Magellan Midstream Partners held a news conference in North Little Rock to celebrate completion of the $200 million project to expand its Midwest pipeline system from Fort Smith to North Little Rock.
“The successful completion of this project, which was many years in the making — we probably spent four years at Magellan working on this and the last two years building it — provides many benefits to the people who live and work here in Arkansas,” said Michael Mears, the company’s president and CEO.
Mears said the company originally planned to build all new pipeline between the two cities, but ultimately it was able to use about 160 miles of existing pipeline, to which it added about 12 miles in the Fort Smith area and about 38 miles coming into North Little Rock. The total length of the pipeline between the cities is about 210 miles, he said.
Mears said the pipeline currently is transporting gasoline and diesel to Magellan’s North Little Rock terminal, and beginning in early 2017 the company expects to begin using it to transport jet fuel to the terminal, which was the site of the news conference.
The pipeline is transporting fuel from refineries in Oklahoma, Kansas and other states in the central part of the U.S. that have never had access to Central Arkansas before, he said.
“There are periods of time during the year when those refineries produce the lowest-cost gasoline in the region, and so now they’ll have access to this market to bring in lower-priced fuel for Central Arkansas,” Mears said.
Last week, Magellan signed an agreement to connect its system to an existing pipeline that will transport fuel to West Memphis, a project that is expected to take about a year and nine months, he said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended the news conference, as did Republican U.S. Sens John Boozman and Tom Cotton; U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs; Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin; and North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith.
“This increases our supply and our capacity to grow. It is absolutely essential,” Hutchinson said.
The governor said the pipeline also increases the reliability of fuel supplies in Arkansas, noting that in the past the state has depended heavily on Gulf Coast refineries.
The project’s completion comes three years after an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured and released thousands of barrels of oil in Mayflower. Mears said Wednesday the company regularly tests its pipelines for defects, has monitoring systems that immediately report major problems and has a program for responding to emergencies.
“Pipelines are the safest mode to transport petroleum products,” he said. “An occasional incident is bound to make headlines, but pipelines are extremely safe. They transport and deliver fuel 99.999 percent of the time without incident.”