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Another Enbridge pipeline proposed

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DULUTH -- Enbridge Energy said Tuesday it plans to build yet another new oil pipeline through Minnesota, on top of two expansion projects already in the works.

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Enbridge said it would end service of its aged Line No. 3 from Alberta to Superior and replace it with a larger capacity line to bring northwestern Canadian oil into the U.S.

The proposal is in addition to the proposed expansion of the Alberta Clipper line from Canada and the all-new Sandpiper line from North Dakota to Superior, Wis., as Enbridge moves to build more pipeline capacity at a dizzying pace to keep up with the huge volume of oil now coming out of western North America.

The company hopes to have the $7 billion, 1,031-mile new Line 3 Replacement project moving oil by late 2017, said Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little.

The current Line 3 is 46 years old and has been undergoing almost contestant maintenance. Its original capacity was 750,000 barrels per day but has been reduced to 410,000 barrels per day because of restrictions on the pressure in the pipe, Little said.

The new line would allow the full 750,000-barrel capacity, Little said, for an increase of 340,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude entering the U.S. – or about 14.3 million additional gallons per day.

“There comes a point where it makes sense to entirely replace the pipe than to keep making repairs,’’ Little added.

The company will need approval from the U.S. State Department – called a presidential permit – and approval of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, among other agencies, before work can begin on the new line.

The Line 3 Replacement will likely follow the existing route from northern Alberta to Clearbrook, Minn., Little said, but then could follow either the Alberta Clipper or old Line 3 route to Superior or move south and follow the route where Enbridge wants to build the new Sandpiper line.

“The route options still haven’t’ been determined. We have had discussions with the Department of State, but we have not applied for any permits as of this point. We’re just announcing this,’’ she said.

It was immediately noticed by some environmental groups that the new Line 3 would allow for increased shipment of so-called tar sands crude oil from northern Canada into the U.S. – the same substance proposed to move on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that many U.S. groups have urged President Barack Obama to halt.

The same groups already are rallying to stop what they are calling an Enbridge expansion, not simply a replacement.

“Enbridge’s plans to increase capacity on another pipeline in the Great Lakes basin is both absurd and insulting. Enbridge needs to call this project what it is … another tar sands pipeline expansion and not a replacement,’’ Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation said in a statement.

Doug Hayes, Sierra Club staff attorney, said pumping more tar sands crude oil will only add to the carbon dioxide buildup that’s causing global climate change.

As with the “Alberta Clipper pipeline expansion, Enbridge will need a new presidential permit for the project. And the same climate test that the president set for the Keystone XL pipeline will apply,’’ Hayes said in a statement. “Will this new pipeline ‘significantly exacerbate’ carbon pollution? Of course it will.”

But Little said Enbridge is simply responding to the demand of oil producers and refineries that are seeking the abundant and relatively cheap western North American crude now in production. The company said it had already secured agreements from oil companies to pay surcharges to pay for the project.

“We build these things because there’s a demand from our shippers,’’ she said. “The more we can access Canadian supplies and North Dakota supplies, the less we need to pull in waterborne imports form less stable foreign countries.”

By John Myers / Duluth News Tribune

Enbridge’s parent company is based in Calgary. Its U.S subsidiary is in Houston. The company has greatly expanded its’ Duluth-Superior offices that now include hundreds of employees and contact staff as the proposed projects move forward.

The U.S. portion of the new Line No. 3 is expected to cost $2.6 billion to build; the Canadian portion $4.2 billion, just part of a massive expansion the company has in the works. Other items include:

  • The 610-mile, $2.5 billion Sandpiper pipeline, which would run from Beaver Lodge in northwestern North Dakota's Bakken oil field to Superior. This new pipeline is planned to follow an existing line across North Dakota. But from Clearbrook, Minn., to Superior the line could either follow the existing Enbridge corridor or a new, more southerly route across land where owners haven't dealt with pipelines before.
  • Expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline, which runs from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, the U.S. portion of which was completed in 2010 at a cost of $1.2 billion. While sometimes reported as a new pipeline, the project is really a $240 million effort to increase the amount of oil running through the existing pipe. Enbridge is planning a series of pump station and other upgrades to increase capacity from the current 450,000 barrels a day to 570,000 barrels a day in the first phase, and to 800,000 barrels a day by 2016 - about the same as the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline and carrying the same kind of oil.  The first phase of the Alberta Clipper expansion was approved in July by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which has not yet acted on the second phase. The project still must clear a supplemental environmental review by the U.S. State Department, which has regulatory authority over pipelines that cross the U.S. border.
  • Expansion of the Southern Access pipeline across Wisconsin from Superior to Flanagan, Ill. This, too, is an increase-in-capacity project for an existing line, also in two phases, totaling more than $1.9 billion. Also known as Line 61, the line was originally completed in 2008. The new effort would increase capacity in the line from 400,000 to 1.2 million barrels a day.
  •  A $100 million expansion of the Michigan line, referred to as Pipeline 5 -- it runs from Superior across the Upper Peninsula to lower Michigan -- from 491,000 to 541,000 barrels a day. The expansion, recently completed, will help move the huge increase in oil coming into Superior out to refineries in eastern states and eastern Canada.
  • Enbridge can currently store 8.5 million barrels – 357 million gallons – in multiple tanks in Superior, and is adding 1.28 million more barrels of storage capacity this summer and then another 1.93 million barrels in 2016.  That will enable Enbridge to store more than 11.7 million barrels in Superior. The new tanks will total more than $100 million.
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