Calgary·In Depth

Montana fracking boom sparks Keystone pipeline support

The contentious Keystone XL pipeline still hasn't been approved, but one town in Montana is excited about the project thanks to the recent fracking boom in the area.

People in Baker, Mont., say the pipeline is needed — along with the economic boost that comes with it

TransCanada's Russ Girling on Baker, Mont.

10 years ago
Duration 1:49
TransCanada CEO Russ Girling talks to the CBC's Erin Collins about the impact fracking could have on Baker, Mont.

The contentious Keystone XL pipeline still hasn’t been approved, but one Montana town is excited about the project thanks to the recent fracking boom in the area.

Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep down well bores to crack open fissures and boost the flow of oil and gas.

Calgary-based TransCanada plans to build a pipeline from North Dakota's booming Bakken area to Baker, Mont., where it would tie into the proposed Keystone XL line.

Fracking Boom

CBC's Erin Collins takes a look at hydraulic fracturing in a four-part series this week on radio, television and online.

If approved, Keystone XL would take oil from Alberta’s oilsands through the heart of the U.S. Midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas for shipment to consumers around the world.

Mona Madler, with the Baker Chamber of Commerce, says a pipeline is needed whether or not it ever connects to Alberta's oilsands. 

"It does make sense because there is a great production increase in this area and it is going to continue to increase."

Cliff Hornung, the mayor of Baker, also believes the Baaken Marketlink will be built no matter what happens with the Keystone XL plan.

"Whether or not that permit is accepted, in the back of my mind, I think they have other alternatives they can do until that is decided," he said.

Hornung says construction of the Marketlink could begin as early as July.

Bakken line hinges on Keystone, says TransCanada

But TransCanada CEO Russell Girling says the Bakken line will be shelved if Keystone is not approved.

"To get economies of scale you have to combine these things together and that was one of the key issues we spent time with in Montana," he said.

Girling said he hopes to have U.S. approval for the Keystone XL project soon so that construction can begin this summer.

"It’s really exciting to see them working and every week we are taking pictures," he said.

Some people in Baker think the jump in oil production will be a great economic boost, and many believe it’s about to get a lot busier. 

Pat Hoyt, who already runs a hotel in the Baker, is building a new one in anticipation. She says there is already a shortage of rooms in town.

"We are very busy. It’s not uncommon to turn people away every week," she said.

But the Keystone XL pipeline is hugely controversial in the United States, and has triggered massive protests outside of the White House in Washington, D.C.

The decision will be up to President Barack Obama, who still has to give the green light to the project. 

People in Baker, Mont., are excited about the proposed Keystone Xl pipeline project. (CBC)