Line 5: Pipelines are Artifacts of the 20th Century

September 18, 2017

Journalist Keith Schneider explains Michigan’s Line 5, and the economics of US pipelines.

Detroit Free Press:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other top state officials on Wednesday called for Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge to immediately repair areas of lost protective coating on twin underwater oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

“Protection of Michigan’s natural resources is of utmost importance, and I am greatly concerned by the new information regarding Line 5,” Snyder said in a statement. “I have directed our departments to accelerate an aggressive review of Enbridge operations and maintenance procedures throughout the state.”

Areas of missing, protective pipeline coating were discovered during underwater Enbridge inspections earlier this month. The enamel coating protects the pipes from corrosion — and is far more significant than the outer, fiberglass wrap that Enbridge acknowledged in February was sloughing off the underwater pipe in spots.

 At least one area of missing enamel coating appeared caused by the installation of required anchor supports on the pipelines — a timely revelation, as the state Department of Environmental Quality is currently considering Enbridge’s permit request to install 22 additional supports on the controversial, 64-year-old pipelines.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette reiterated his call to work toward decommissioning the Straits pipelines.

“We need to focus on a timeline to close Line 5, with a defined plan to ensure that Michigan residents in the U.P. have reliable access to propane, and protect our lakes with sound science and modern regulatory policy,” he said.

The Line 5 pipeline carries up to 23 million gallons per day of crude oil and liquid natural gas through the Upper Peninsula before splitting at the Straits into twin, 20-inch, underwater pipes for the 5-mile stretch between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It then reunites into a single transmission line to move the products south through the state before reaching a hub in Sarnia, Ontario, in Canada.


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