Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Little known pipeline ships 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas per day beneath Great Lakes

Few people seem to be aware that 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids are transported every day through a pipeline underneath the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Michigan to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Steve Friess reports for The Washington Post. Oil and natural gas are being transported from Alberta in Western Canada to refineries in Detroit and Sarnia, Ontario. (Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve map)

While the pipeline has never had a spill or even a repair, according to its owner, the fact that it was built in 1953 has some concerned about its durability, Friess writes. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a conservative seen as a GOP front-runner for governor in 2018, seemed to condemn the line in a July report, saying, “You wouldn’t site, and you wouldn’t build and construct pipelines underneath the Straits today. And so, if you wouldn’t do it today, how many more tomorrows will the pipelines be operational?”

Friess writes, "Still, Enbridge has received a reprieve because Schuette has declined to order an immediate shutdown, as he could under the terms of the state’s agreement with Enbridge regarding the easement. Instead, he established a Pipeline Safety Advisory Board to study all of the state’s spaghetti tangle of pipelines and make recommendations as to what to do. That committee, which has met twice, is ordering up a comprehensive report on how Enbridge would transport the oil and gas in Line 5 to refineries if it could no longer pump it through the Straits."

"The company itself already has an answer: It would be expensive, dirty and, ultimately, riskier to the environment than continuing to use, monitor and maintain Line 5," Friess writes. "They’d need to send the petroleum via truck, train and perhaps tanker ship across the Great Lakes, all modes of transport that have much bleaker safety records than pipelines, Enbridge publicist Jason Manshum said." Meanwhile, the pipeline continues to be operated with little awareness or concern from the general public. (Read more)

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