Drilling underway near the Line 5 Pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac

Drilling underway near the Line 5 Pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac
March 16, 2018 Mary Ellen Geist
Photo courtesy of enbridge.com

Enbridge trying to determine best way to replace the aging pipeline

Environmentalists in Northern Michigan started sounding alarms when they saw some unusual activity – 25-foot tall drill rig structures – near the Line 5 pipeline not far from the Mackinac Bridge at the beginning of March.

But Enbridge says there are no big changes taking place along the 4.5 mile long pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac – not yet, anyway.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Duffy

Enbridge Mobile Drilling Rig, courtesy of Ryan Duffy

Enbridge Energy spokesman Ryan Duffy tells Great Lakes Now here’s what the drilling and use of other equipment near Line 5 is all about: “Enbridge will be conducting some geotechnical investigations at our valve and pump station facilities on the north and south side of our Straits of Mackinac pipeline crossing. The investigation work is to provide additional sub surface information that will be used to determine the feasibility of alternative pipeline crossing techniques for the Straits of Mackinac as outlined in the Agreement between Enbridge and the State of Michigan entered into in November 2017.”

Enbridge says the drilling is occurring on property the company owns on the north and south sides of Line 5 between Michigan’s upper and lower Peninsula.

No decisions have been made as yet, but the new agreement forged by Michigan Governor Snyder and Enbridge requires that the company look at the feasibility of a new pipeline in a tunnel, inside a horizontally drilled tube, or a new pipeline that is embedded in a deep trench.

The composition of the rock in the spot where the Line 5 pipeline currently rests is key to what will be a major decision about the future of Line 5.

The new agreement between the state and Enbridge requires that Enbridge submit its analysis of possible alternatives to Line 5 by June.

Image courtesy of enbridge.com

How Enbridge supports Line 5, courtesy of enbridge.com

Enbridge says the pipeline is as safe as the day it was built in 1953. The pipeline is made of one-inch think steel covered by a protective coating of coal tar enamel. Line 5 carries 23 million gallons a day of 80 percent light crude oil and 20 percent natural gas liquids in alternating batches.

Environmental activists say the pipeline is well beyond its expiration date and should be decommissioned because it’s unsafe. They say recent revelations about protective coating that is wearing off raises new questions about the durability of the 65-year old pipeline, and causes fears of a rupture similar to the one that occurred near Kalamazoo.

Sean McBrearty, who is campaign coordinator for the environmental group called “Oil and Water Don’t Mix.” tells Great Lakes Now, “The backroom deal made between the Snyder Administration and Enbridge is nothing more than an attempt to limit the scope of alternatives being examined to the current corroding and unsafe Line 5 pipeline. By allowing Enbridge to study the feasibility of drilling under the Straits of Mackinac and replace the St. Clair River crossing, this administration shows that they are not looking at the entire 645-mile long pipeline, which has already ruptured 29 times in the last 50 years.

Image courtesy of oilandwaterdontmix.org

Oil & Water Don’t Mix, courtesy of oilandwaterdontmix.org

The Snyder administration and Enbridge are attempting to limit debate to how best to replace Line 5, while ignoring the fact that the only way to protect the Great Lakes is to decommission Line 5 without replacement. It is the State of Michigan’s duty to protect the Great Lakes. Snyder and Schuette are shirking that duty by allowing the ridiculous idea of tunneling through the Great Lakes for oil to be examined.”

Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy tells Great Lakes Now the work “will likely take 4 to 5 weeks to complete. All work will be confined to existing Enbridge owned property in areas that are graveled.” Duffy says, “All the work is happening on Enbridge owned properties,” and he says “there isn’t expected to be any additional noise or traffic. But people may see the 25-foot tall drill rig structures that are going to be used for this.”

(from Great Lakes Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Geist: For the past year, greatlakesnow.org has been filming various developments, doing interviews and conducting research about the Line 5 pipeline. The result of our efforts is a documentary called “Beneath the Surface: The Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes”. It will be shown on Detroit Public Television on April 25th at 10pm. You’ll be hearing more about our documentary over the coming month. http://greatlakesnow.org/line5  #GLNline5doc )

Featured image Line 3 Construction, courtesy of enbridge.com

1 Comment

  1. Alex Sagady 6 years ago

    Is your Line 5 documentary going to deal with the fact that Line 5 is an interstate hazardous liquids pipeline ….which means that the State of Michigan has no authority over its operations, safety standards, maintenance requirements and design elements — and no authority to shut it down or to order its decommissioning as all such authority is federally preempted? See 49 USC Sec. 60104(c) https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2015-title49/pdf/USCODE-2015-title49-subtitleVIII-chap601-sec60104.pdf and the case of City of Seattle v. Olympic Pipeline Company [local pipeline easement agreements cannot be enforced under federal preemption] http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-9th-circuit/1058087.html
    The entire anti-Line 5 campaign of the Sierra Club and others completely ignores this overarching legal fact and reality…….and ignores the fact that the Oak Ridge National Laboratory [at the request of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] found no basis for an imminent risk claims for the Line 5 Mackinac Straits segments…..and that these same segments passed the gold standard for pipeline safety….a hydrostatic pressure test at 1200 PSI that was recently conducted.

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