An agreement announced on Monday between the state of Michigan and Enbridge, which operates a pipeline critical to the ongoing operations of Sarnia area industry, has eased concerns over a potential disruption in the supply of crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGL) to the area.
Enbridge has agreed to replace the section of the pipeline (referred to as Line 5) that runs under the St. Clair River, although the timing of that construction is not yet known.
Ken Hall, a Sarnia-based spokesperson for Enbridge, said a scope of work will be required before plans are submitted to the Canadian federal government. Only when that occurs can an accurate timeline of the work be determined.
In the agreement to replace the St. Clair River portion of Line 5, Enbridge will use horizontal directional drilling, an option that will also be assessed as part of a study involving twin pipeline sections that cross the Straits of Mackinac.
Enbridge has until June 2018 to study horizontal directional drilling as well as two other choices, one being the digging of a tunnel in which the two pipelines would be inserted and the third being the digging of a trench. Under that option, the pipeline sections would be placed into the trench.
While Enbridge asserts that its Line 5 pipeline is safe, it acknowledges that “our internal technical studies and understanding haven’t translated well into reassuring the public or Michigan leaders about the ongoing safe operation of Line 5. We apologize if our actions sometimes have created confusion.”
The company has agreed that it would temporarily shut down the operation of Line 5 when adverse weather conditions create sustained waves higher than eight feet in the Straits.
Enbridge has also said it would put into place additional safety measures to further mitigate a potential anchor strike from boats in the Straits.