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Enbridge reps respond to public feedback

Lorraine Little

By Sarah Smith

Enbridge is hearing the opposition to its proposed Sandpiper pipeline, company officials said Wednesday.

“Well, certainly we’ve had a lot of input and feedback from folks along the route and that’s to be expected. We see that from any pipelines or project we have going. People just have a new level of interest in pipelines and energy transportation and people just have a lot of questions,” said Loraine Little, spokesperson for the company’s crude oil pipelines division.

With oil from the Bakken Formation in western North Dakota and the Canadian oil sand, “companies like Enbridge are working with shippers to move that oil to American markets,” Little said Wednesday in a visit to the Enterprise.

“We’re looking forward to the meeting July 9 and that will give us a much better idea what the scheduling will be going forth in the regulatory process, when we’ll have our public hearings and when the comment periods will be open.”

The July 9 scheduling order will basically set the stage for what is to follow in the regulatory process the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission sets.

“We’re definitely hearing the concerns and that’s why we’re out,” Little said. “We want to be part of the conversation, talk about safety and energy transportation.”

Oil will move to markets whether or not the PUC approves the Sandpiper line, Little and Enbridge spokeswoman Christine Davis both said.

The Bakken crude oil is considered a good source.

“They need a transportation mode to get it there and pipelines are the safest way to get there,” Little said.

The women are mindful of the lakes area in Hubbard County and the Mississippi headwaters region the pipeline is destined to travel through.

“It’s a beautiful area. Everyone has a right to protect the environment. We just want to be part of the conversation,” Little said.

“We believe that there are safety mechanisms put in place in the design for construction of the pipeline and because of those things it can be compatible with protection of the environment.”

The women have been making frequent visits to the Minnesota region affected by the pipeline, talking to local interest groups.

“We’ve had some interaction with people who’ve had questions (since 2013),” Davis said. “When there’s a milestone event we’ll get calls and talk to people along the way, answer questions.”

The Superior terminal is the lynchpin of the operation, both women said. Alternate routes proposed routing the crude oil to Minneapolis or elsewhere but they aren’t feasible, they both maintain.

“Superior Terminal is a connection hub for us,” Little said. “Maybe a good comparison is like Minneapolis or Detroit is for Delta. That’s what Superior Terminal is like for us.”

The women say it doesn’t make sense to route pipelines away from Superior, where the oil would sit briefly before being piped east and south to other markets,

It will not travel the Great Lakes via barge, the women stressed.

“For Enbridge, we’re shipping oil to our Superior Terminal and it will leave by pipeline,” Little said again.

“Superior’s pretty critical to the overall system. It’s where all other pipelines have gone since 1949 and it’s been going through Hubbard County since 1949,” Davis said.

The lines go through Farden Township, along with other pipelines.

“Line 67 is the one in the PUC process as to whether we can increase the production,” Davis said.

If approved, “it will be in Superior where it will then go onto another spoke of the hub,” she added.

But the women said along with their message of environmental concerns, pipeline safety, as other technology, has advanced considerably and Enbridge will be tapping that expertise.

“In terms of pipeline safety is starts at design, through construction to operation of the pipeline. With the design on Sandpiper they’re looking to the latest coatings, which is fusion-bonded epoxy coating. The external coating is a corrosion inhibitor,” Little said.

Valves will be installed through the pipeline, but the woman said where will be an engineering decision.

“It has to do with geography, topography… It’s chosen on a variety of factors,” Little said.

If approved, the monitoring system would operate out of Edmonton, Alberta.

“Most of the valves put into our system can be remotely operated and can be shut down by our control center in Edmonton but they are operated in real time,” Little said.

“They can see what’s going on in the system at any point at any time.”

Enbridge recently installed a brand new monitoring system in Edmonton, the women said.

The sophisticated system can detect minute drops in pressure and react immediately.

Many opponents worried that Minnesota lake country is so remote in places that a leak would not be detected for weeks.

Not so, the women assured.

Personnel are responsible for a certain pipeline and the monitoring of it.

“If there’s a drop in pressure they can shut it down immediately,” Little said, adding that it can do so remotely.

“If there’s a drop in pressure it’s designed to shut down immediately without actually having an operator to push a button, if conditions make it so.”

It’s called “computational monitoring.”

The system expects a certain volume.

“If it’s not, it triggers an alarm and a series of actions. It’s like tracking a UPS package,” Little said.

“The system manages the pressure and the volume of oil moving through,” she added.

The system is under “increased scrutiny,” Little said. “We want to keep our product moving from point A to point B. We want to protect the environment along that route. The most minute factor” will trigger a check of the system.

Enbridge’s website contains an operational reliability report.

The woman visited Park Rapids for another purpose Wednesday.

The company has a community giving program. They presented a check to the Rotary Club to help fund a fitness program at Century School.

They are looking for other opportunities to partner with other groups, particularly Emergency Medical Technicians, as part of the company’s safety and health initiative.

“Emergency responders can apply under the safe community (portion of the website),” Little said.

The funds are for training or equipment.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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