Walz Wisely Designates Oil and Natural Gas Pipelines as “Essential Operations” During COVID-19 Shutdown

COVID-19 continues to dominate the state and national conversation, and more jurisdictions are issuing Shelter in Place orders to try and slow the spread of the virus to buy time for healthcare providers to prepare for the peak caseload. These orders have required the closure of businesses that have been deemed non-essential. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is to be commended for recognizing the importance that oil and natural gas pipelines play in the everyday lives of all Minnesotans, and all Americans, by deeming them to be essential.

The map below shows the extensive network of energy pipelines operating in the state. The dark brown lines are crude oil pipelines, the light brown lines are refined petroleum product pipelines, and the blue lines that span out like arteries in the state are natural gas pipelines.

These pipelines are correctly identified as essential businesses because they help provide 62 percent of all the energy Minnesotans use in their lives everyday. Oil is used primarily in the transportation industry, powering the cars our families to make sure they are able to get the essential items they need at the grocery store, and it also powers the semi-trucks that are busily working to restock the items that are currently in low supply.

Our first responders rely on oil products, as well, and every hospital in the United States required to have a backup power generator to make sure the lights, and life saving equipment, are able to function  for up t0 96 hours in case of a power outage, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Nearly all of these generators are powered by diesel fuel.

Natural gas is essential because 65 percent of Minnesotans rely on this fuel for home heating, and it is also used to heat hospitals. This fuel also provided nearly 18 percent of the electricity generated in state in 2019.

Minnesota’s pipelines are essential to make sure our state has the energy we need to adapt to the evolving health challenges, and they are essential for our neighbors living in other states. In fact, the Energy Information Administration states that 30 percent of all U.S. oil imports pass through Minnesota as a result of it’s extensive pipeline and railroad network as it makes its way to its final destination.

Minnesota’s importance to ensuring we have access to safe, and essential energy will only grow over time. The completion of the Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project means that this one pipeline will deliver more oil to the United States than we import from the entire country of Saudi Arabia, as you can see in the graph below.

Governor Walz got it right when he designated oil and gas pipelines as essential operations to provide the for health and wellness of Minnesotans. These fuels are essential tools to ensure that our society is able to function and respond to the challenges that lie ahead.