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Crude oil market drives plans to connect Memphis refinery with pipeline in North Mississippi

With a commitment to “being a good neighbor,” Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. has teamed with Valero to construct a 45-mile crude oil pipeline system connecting Memphis to Marshall County, Miss.

Dubbed the Byhalia Connection, the project this week was pitched as “strengthening the region’s economy and America’s energy independence.

No cost estimate was available immediately and an economic development study via a third party is pending. No local government funds are involved in the project, said The Carter Malone Group owner Deidre Malone, who was hired as a public affairs advisor.

According to Malone, who detailed the project on Tuesday to The New Tri-State Defender, the permitting and easement acquisition phase is underway. Construction is projected to begin in the second half of 2020, with the pipeline expected to be in service by the latter half of 2021.

The U.S. refines about 30 million barrels of crude oil daily. Plains operates about 18,000 miles of active pipeline in North America and transports about 6 million barrels of crude oil each day. The Byhalia Connection is being designed to close a perceived gap in Plains’ system.

There is an existing and in-service pipeline that extends from Cushing, OK., and terminates at the Valero Memphis Refinery. The objective is to connect it with another existing and in-service pipeline and improve transporting to the Gulf Course.

The backdrop, according to Karen Rugaard, manager of public relations/public affairs for Plains, is that the way crude oil is produced in the country has changed dramatically in recent years, with the U.S. now the world’s leading producer of crude oil.

Although there is a proposed route in discussion, it has not been settled upon, Malone said.

“We have had made adjustments to the route many times based on our conversation with community stakeholders.”

Project benefits, said Malone, include jobs for hundreds of construction worker and taxpayer revenue for the life of the pipeline.

“We (Plains) is committed to being good community partners. … We’re planning several open houses in January, first part of February. …Our goal is to try and get the community out to learn more about the Byhalia Connection Pipeline, ask Plains All American Pipelines professionals about the pipeline and be able to answer the questions that the community may have about the project.”

There already have been multiple meetings with elected officials in Shelby County, DeSoto County and Marshall County. Malone’s first “official” presentation is set for the Memphis Branch NAACP. There also have been discussions with the University Memphis regarding the Memphis aquafer.

Given environmental justice concerns associated with African-American communities, Malone was asked how such concerns about safety would be addressed.

“A pipeline is the safest way to transport crude oil and this pipeline will be underground. It will be safe. …It is safe. …

“Safety is our number one priority. It is part of the DNA for this organization. Even when we’re testing the pipeline, we’re going through robust testing.”

Technically, Byhalia Connection is owned by Byhalia Pipeline, LLC, a joint venture between Plains All American Pipeline and Valero. A subsidiary of Plains will construct and operation the pipeline.

Two crude oil pipelines – Capline Pipeline (running between Central Illinois and the Gulf Coast) and the Diamond Pipeline (a crude oil source for Valero), would be hooked up via the Byhalia Connection.

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