A Canadian company says it needs to replace hundreds of miles of aging pipeline in Minnesota, pipeline that already carries much less oil than it once did.
Enbridge Energy filed several requests for Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approval last Friday, including a plan to provide notice to every landowner who might be affected by the project as well as elected officials along the route.
"This is really the beginning of the regulatory process," said Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Little. "The notice plan informs the public and the regulators of our intent to file an application for a certificate of need and a routing permit for the project."
The pipeline, called Line 3, brings crude and tar sand oil from Edmonton, Alberta, through North Dakota, cutting across Minnesota from the northwest corner of the state to Superior, Wisconsin.
The original pipeline was built in the 1960s, but the company's filings with the PUC indicate if it is not replaced, the pipeline will need as many as 900 repairs over the next six years.
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The pipeline was built to move 760,000 barrels of crude each day, but because of reduced pressure it now moves less than 400,000 barrels each day.
In 2007, Line 3 leaked two barrels of crude oil near the company's Clearbrook, Minnesota terminal. A few weeks later, two workers were killed in an explosion while repairing Enbridge pipelines in that area.
Environmental groups voiced concern soon after Enbridge announced its plans to overhaul Line 3 earlier this year, calling for a full environmental review.
The proposed $2.3 billion U.S portion of the project includes 338 miles of 36-inch diameter pipeline in Minnesota and improvements to station and terminal facilities along the route.
The proposal also changes the route of the pipeline. The new route would still come into Clearbrook from North Dakota and end at Superior, but it would cut south to Park Rapids and then east following the same route of the company's proposed Sandpiper Pipeline.
Enbridge's Little said the company decided to use the proposed Sandpiper route because the company already has six pipes along the current Line 3 route, which she said is congested because of the growth of cities like Bemidji and Grand Rapids on that corridor. She said the company has signed easement agreements with 90 percent of the private landowners along the proposed Sandpiper route, and 50 percent of landowners for the Line 3 project.
The company plans to file its application for the project in early 2015.
Enbridge's website shows construction, pending approval, would begin in 2016-2017. The company hopes to have the Sandpiper pipeline in service by 2017.