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Enbridge Under Fire Over MI Pipeline Coating Gaps

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder called for transparency from energy giant Enbridge on Monday (Nov. 13) after state officials learned that there are far more gaps in the coating on the company’s Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac than originally believed.

According to reports, on Monday, Enbridge provided the state with an update on the status of its Line 5 inspections and repairs in response to criticism from state officials. The new update indicates that 48 areas of the twin pipeline were inspected, and the majority of them had some areas of coating loss.

Line 5 underwater
Images: Enbridge

Enbridge's Line 5, a twin liquids pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac, has numerous areas of coating loss, according to a new report.

This is a considerable increase over the company’s previous reports—in September, Enbridge reported that three small areas of coating loss had been located during routine inspections. Then, later the same month, the company disclosed more, and larger, gaps. According to Enbridge, the gaps likely came as a result of maintenance work performed in 2014.

Ongoing Coating Questions

Earlier this year, Enbridge denied reports of coating loss on the pipeline, which spans the Straits between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula. In March, the company acknowledged that there were areas of coating loss, but that they only affected the outer layer of the coating system.

Most recently, it was revealed that some Enbridge personnel knew about the gaps soon after they were created in 2014, but the company hadn’t acknowledged their existence for three years.

With the latest revelation regarding the number of coating gaps, state officials are concerned that the company is not being forthcoming about the 64-year-old pipeline, which has been the subject of debate in the area due to its location under the Straits, which connect Lake Michigan with Lake Huron.

Governor's Statement

Snyder issued a statement calling the admission “deeply concerning” and reading in part, “While it does not indicate any imminent danger for the Great Lakes, this causes significant concern for the long term. I am no longer satisfied with the operational activities and public information tactics that have become status quo for Enbridge.”

Gov. Rick Snyder
Office of Gov. Rick Snyder

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder called the coating loss, and Enbridge's previous failure to acknowledge the problem, "deeply concerning."

The Michigan Agency for Energy issued a statement Monday as well, calling on Enbridge to give the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board “a full accounting of the status of Line 5” at the board’s Dec. 11 meeting.

“A year ago, Enbridge said there were no coating gaps in the Straits pipeline. Now, there are dozens. When will we know the full accounting of what Enbridge knows about Line 5?” asked Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy and co-chair of the PSAB.

“I sincerely hope there are no more surprises when Enbridge gives their presentation to the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board in December.”

In response to questions about the size and number of gaps and the company’s disclosure practices, Enbridge spokesperson Michael Barnes issued a statement to PaintSquare Daily News Tuesday, reading, “We recognize the public’s interest in the findings we are sharing, and we are committed to providing timely and transparent updates to the State and the public. It is important to note that none of these findings represents a risk to the safe operation of Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac.”

Final Report Next Week

The state solicited a Line 5 Alternatives Analysis Report, a draft of which was released over the summer. The final version of that report will be released Nov. 20; it was prepared by Dynamic Risk Assessments Inc. The report explores the relative risks and benefits to keeping Line 5, replacing it with a new pipeline under the Straits, or replacing it with another mode of transport for the 540,000 barrels of crude oil and natural gas liquids it conveys daily.

Line 5 has never experienced a leak; in June, the pipeline passed a pressure test in which it was subjected to pressures of 1,200 psi, eight times its normal operating pressure.


Tagged categories: Coal tar epoxy; Coating failure; Government; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Quality Control

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