The proposed Uinta Express Pipeline route would be 135 miles long, with a substantial section going through Summit County. Tesoro, the company in charge of
The proposed Uinta Express Pipeline route would be 135 miles long, with a substantial section going through Summit County. Tesoro, the company in charge of the project, says the route will try to use existing right-of-ways. It would also parallel existing Chevron crude pipelines. (Park Record file photo)

Word of the proposal of the Uinta Express Pipeline came as a surprise to local residents and officials this month, as a substantial portion of the pipeline to pump waxy crude oil from the Uinta Basin to Salt Lake would go through Summit County.

In an interview on Monday, Michael Gebhardt, vice president of business development for Tesoro Marketing & Refining, LLC, the company that will construct the pipeline, said the proposed northern route of the pipeline is the company's preference because it utilizes the greatest amount of existing right-of-ways and defined utility corridors.

The northern route would be 135 miles long and would run northwest from Duchesne County and through 14 miles of the Uinta National Forest before going through Woodland and Francis. It would then bear north and then northwest past Peoa, around the east side of Rockport Reservoir, under Interstate 80 past Wanship and Hoytsville, before tracking west near Coalville until it reaches refineries near North Salt Lake.

To view a high-resolution map of the proposed pipeline route and alternatives,click here.

"When we look at the principles for route selection, we're looking to minimize impacts on communities and sensitive areas," Gebhardt said. "[We'd prefer to] expand on something that's already been cut through the area rather than cutting a new path."

For those sections of the pipeline that would go through private property, Gebhardt said Tesoro would work with individual landowners on obtaining easements.

Gebhardt also confirmed that the waxy crude that would be transported via the proposed pipeline would need to be heated in transport.

"At the origin, we would heat the crude oil. It takes 40 hours to flow to its destination [in Salt Lake]. It would arrive and still be flowing," Gebhardt said.

In addition to interior insulation, the pipeline would also have an exterior electrical component that would ensure the waxy crude maintains a certain temperature should its flow be stopped. A displacement option could also be utilized, which would allow the crude to be placed in tanks should flow be stopped or repairs be necessary.

In high-impact areas, Gebhardt said there would be remotely-activated valves which could be closed from a central control center. A "Smart Pig" could also be inserted into the pipeline which would have sensors that measure the thickness of the pipeline's walls.

Inspections on the pipeline would occur about 26 times a year, Gebhardt said, with the time between each inspection not to exceed three weeks. He added that the construction of this pipeline would not necessarily lead to more crude oil being refined in Salt Lake.

"Sometimes the perception is this pipeline would enable more waxy crude to run in these Salt Lake City refineries. This won't change the volume of crude refined," Gebhardt said, adding that refineries need to go through a process in order to expand their operations.

Reducing oil tanker traffic is a crucial benefit of this pipeline, Gebhardt said, as roughly 250 trucks make round trips between the Uinta Basin and Salt Lake.

"It's a conversation around transportation methodology. Whether it's a truck or a pipeline, it's not expanding the amount of waxy crude that will be run," Gebhardt said.

Gebhardt stressed that the pipeline that the materials and engineering that would be used on this pipeline have been used "safely and environmentally responsibly, 24/7, around the world." He said the process of formulating the project's environmental impact statement will help to determine whether the northern route is the best route to take.

Officials with Summit County met with Tesoro this week, and Gebhardt said they are off to a "great collaborative conversation," although they are still early in the process. Summit County Manager Bob Jasper commented on the talks.

"It was an opportunity for our planning, engineering and sustainability departments to hear first-hand what was being proposed and ask significant questions," Jasper said. "Most importantly, we were able to communicate to Tesoro that Summit County is a stakeholder in this process and the communication lines need to remain open."

Two open house meetings will be held to discuss the Uinta Express Pipeline project:

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 6 to 8 p.m., Wasatch High School, Heber City

Thursday, Feb. 20, 6 to 8 p.m., Bountiful High School, Bountiful

For more information, contact Larry Lucas of the Forest Service at 801-999-2157 or via lclucas@fs.fed.us.