The almost completed oilsands pipeline you never heard about

“They wanted this one to happen quietly and under the radar.”

Image Credit: AP

From Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin, the Line 3 Replacement Program, a 1,097-mile crude oil pipeline, is being constructed right now. But receiving little to no media attention, Line 3 is on track to be completed in mid-2019 and will likely boost oilsands exports by 375,000 barrels a day.

“They wanted this one to happen quietly and under the radar,” Adam Scott, senior advisor at Oil Change International, said in an interview with The Narwhal.

The project, constructed by Enbridge – the largest oil and gas pipeline company in North America – consists of a $2.9-billion American portion (from Neche, North Dakota, through Minnesota, to Superior, Wisconsin) and a C$5.3-billion Canadian component (from Hardisty, Alberta and Gretna, Manitoba).


According to Enbridge’s website, Line 3 Replacement Program is the largest project in the company’s history and will comprise the newest and most advanced pipeline technology.

While protests over many crude oil pipelines are ongoing in the U.S., Line 3 was approved by the federal government in November 2016. It was recently “passed the final major regulatory hurdle” in June after a delay by Minnesota’s Public Utilities Board, The Narwhal reported.

Labeled as a replacement project, Line 3 will replace the aged existing pipeline, but will be slightly wider so Enbridge can return it to original levels, The Narwal reported. The replacement project will include “installation of 18 new pump stations and three new storage terminals in Alberta,” The Narwhal reported.

Line 3 will fully replace 1,031 miles of existing pipeline, according to the company’s website. The existing, soon-to-be decommissioned pipeline will be left in the ground, which has many environmentalists worried.

Laura Cameron a community organizer with the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition said the decommissioned line “has the potential to damage local environments through metal deteriorating and making farmland pretty unstable.”

Many residents within the pipeline states are also worried about oil spills. The Narwhal reported:

In 1991, Line 3 spilled 40,000 barrels near Grand Rapids. In 1999, the pipeline spilled 20,000 barrels of heavy crude near Regina. In 2007, two workers in Minnesota were killed in an explosion while attempting to repair the pipeline. Such fears are compounded by multiple spills on the nearby TransCanada Keystone pipeline. And earlier this month, an Enbridge pipeline transporting natural gas exploded near Prince George, requiring evacuations and residents to reduce gas consumption.

“The idea of cleanup is always overstated,” Scott said. “It’s not technically possible in a lot of cases. You’ll end up with toxic bitumen getting into aquifers and sediment, and the impacts can be generational.”

But a spokesperson for Enbridge said the company will “continue to monitor the deactivated pipeline and maintain the right-of-way.”

“Independent engineering research and analysis have determined that deactivated pipelines with adequate cover will have a very long life as load-bearing structures, even after decades of deactivation,” Juli Kellner, spokesperson for Enbridge said. “Environmental regulatory requirements prohibit altering current hydrology. Therefore, the Line 3 deactivation process will protect water resources to ensure that the deactivated pipeline will not drain any fields, lakes, rivers, streams or other wetland areas.”

While the construction of Line 3 is well on its way with completed portions in Saskatchewan, Canada and in the U.S., opposition is starting to mount over Enbridge’s project. So while Line 3 hasn’t received much attention from mainstream media, the resistance could soon make Enbridge a household name.


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