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Enbridge Clears Minnesota Hurdle For Line 3 Replacement

Minnesota’s Public Utilities commission voted unanimously to approve the final environmental review of the proposed replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline.

Enbridge has proposed to replace the existing infrastructure from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin – a 1,031-mile stretch that was originally installed in the 1960s. In the United States, Enbridge will replace the segment that runs from North Dakota through Minnesota to Wisconsin for a total US$2.9-billion. Line 3 is part of Enbridge’s Mainline pipeline network that carries the bulk of the 3 million bpd of crude that Canada exports to the United States. 

Last September, it ran into a surprising obstacle in the face of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which said the environmental and socioeconomic risks of the Line 3 replacement project exceeded its potential benefits, adding that Enbridge had not made a sound case about the need for a new pipeline.

There is also the usual amount of environmentalist opposition to the replacement project, although Enbridge has explained that it plans to fortify the infrastructure by replacing the old steel pipes with ones made from stronger steel and restoring the pipeline’s capacity to 760,000 bpd. Line 3 has been carrying 390,000 bpd since 2010. The company’s pipeline system in Minnesota has a capacity of 2.9 million barrels daily.

Related: Is Another Oil Price War Looming?

The route for the section to be replaced in Minnesota passes through pristine waters in the Mississippi River headwaters area, and this fact has raised concern among local Native communities who are worried that a potential spill would damage lakes that the locals harvest wild rice from.

The native communities prompted a so-called traditional cultural properties survey to identify sacred sites along the proposed route of the pipeline but failed to convince the PUC to wait for the results from the survey before approving the environmental review. The commission said the survey must be completed before construction of the pipeline can begin.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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