MN Officials Pan Pending Pipeline Project


A major pipeline construction project that began in earnest last month is facing hurdles in Minnesota, where some state officials have said that Enbridge Energy has not established a need for its Line 3 Replacement Project.

The project, a $6.5 billion job that would see the replacement of more than 1,000 miles of crude oil pipeline between Alberta and Wisconsin, is necessary, owner Enbridge has said, because of a failing tapecoat that may be speeding corrosion on the line. Concerns over the pipeline’s condition led the company to voluntarily limit the line to 390,000 barrels per day starting in 2010. A replacement would increase capacity to at least 760,000 barrels daily.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is accepting comment on the plan, and is expected to rule on crucial permits by next spring.

Department of Commerce Opinion

The project needs two approvals from the state of Minnesota: a certificate of need and a route permit. In parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Enbridge plans to reroute the line along existing pipeline and electric transmission line rights-of-way.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission heard testimony earlier this month from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which argued that Enbridge “has not established a need for the proposed project in Minnesota as required under state rules.”

According to the DOC, a market analysis conducted by London Economics International indicates that Minnesota refineries and those elsewhere in the region have been operating at high utilization, meaning that the limitations on Line 3 are not adversely affecting operations in the region. The analysis predicts that demand in the region won’t likely grow in the long term.

Line 3 replacement routing

In parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Enbridge plans to reroute the line along existing pipeline and electric transmission line rights-of-way.

The DOC also said that recent increases to Enbridge’s Line 67 have already served to increase supply to the region, further negating any need for an expansion to Line 3.

Kate O’Connell, manager of the DOC’s Energy Regulation and Planning Unit, testified that “Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built.”

In response to the testimony, Enbridge issued a statement that reads in part: “The Department of Commerce opinion is only one view, which we and other energy consumers will respond to in detail through this process. … We’re confident in our evidence and we’re confident in the Minnesota regulatory process which requires weighing of all evidence by a judge followed by her recommendations to the Minnesota PUC.”

A series of public hearings on the replacement began in Minnesota Sept. 26 and will continue through Oct. 26. Additionally, written commentary is being accepted by the PUC until Nov. 22.

Project Background

The current Line 3 was put into service in 1968, and is made up of 34-inch pipeline. The new line, as proposed, would be 36 inches in diameter. The replacement project, already underway in Canada, is the largest single project in the company’s history.

According to permit application documentation, Enbridge plans to construct the new pipeline of high-strength GX-70 steel, with a nominal wall thickness of 0.515 inches (with stretches made of thicker pipeline when necessary, such as segments installed via road bore or horizontal directional drilling).

The mainline will be coated with 14 mils of epoxy bonding, and stretches installed via trenchless methods will be coated with 50 mils.


Tagged categories: Government; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Program/Project Management

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