COMMENTARY: Enbridge: We remain committed to protecting the environment
Several portions of a March 5 commentary by Winona LaDuke ("An unhappy anniversary: Remembering March 3, 1991") require a response to provide readers more complete information about our Line 3 Replacement Project.
Unfortunately, too much information presented by others about Enbridge's pipelines is narrowly focused and lacks the context about the important role that pipelines play as part of America's energy infrastructure and the work we do to operate our system safely.
The Line 3 pipeline provides a vital link between North American production regions and Minnesota, Wisconsin and other North American refinery markets. Enbridge is being responsible by proposing to replace Line 3. Replacement means maintaining our high safety standards and reducing future maintenance activities, which can result in disruptions to landowners and the environment. In Minnesota alone, we anticipate more than 6,000 maintenance digs to inspect and repair Line 3 over the next 15 years. Replacement is clearly the best solution.
Pipeline safety begins at design and construction, with best-of-class engineering practices, high-quality North American steel, special coatings to protect pipe from external corrosion, and comprehensive inspection and testing far above operating levels. Once oil is in the pipe, our focus is keeping it there until it arrives safely at its destination. Enbridge deploys state of the art safety systems and employs a research and development department to ensure our safety systems are on the cutting edge.
Also important, Line 3 is safe in its current operation. The line undergoes systematic preventative maintenance activities and inspections to ensure its safe operation. These activities will continue until the new line is put into service.
Enbridge uses high-resolution inline inspection (ILI) tools that monitor integrity from the inside out using imaging technologies, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI"). The ILI tools are developed and owned by third-party companies, who run these tools on many companies' pipelines and gather information from across the industry. ILI tools detect pipeline anomalies, which include physical objects, imperfections, and defects. Anomalies are then characterized, sized, and assessed. An anomaly identified as an integrity threat is managed in accordance with the integrity management program.
With an anomaly requiring excavation and visual inspection, Enbridge obtains the required environmental and regulatory permits, notifies affected landowners, and identifies all existing utilities in the vicinity of excavation. Enbridge then excavates around the section of buried pipe so that it can be cleaned, examined and repaired, as needed. This is referred to as a dig and repair program, and an individual dig is referred to as an "integrity dig." Repair may include one, or a combination, of the following repair methods: recoating with modern epoxy coating; installing a pressure steel sleeve and recoating the outside of the sleeve with modern epoxy coating; or performing a grind repair to address manufacturing defects and then recoating and, possibly, installing a pressure steel sleeve.
Pending regulatory approval, once the replacement line is completed, we will deactivate the original Line 3, and continue to monitor its condition. Enbridge has deactivated more than 400 miles of pipelines in the U.S. in accordance with federal guidelines. We are responsible for our pipelines whether they are active or not, and we remain committed to protecting the environment and to public safety.
In the last few years, Enbridge has invested billions to ensure our operations and systems meet and exceed safety standards — to prevent releases, develop safer systems and train personnel to respond to potential issues.
For 65 years, Enbridge's northern Minnesota pipeline operations have coexisted with Minnesotans enjoyment of our water and precious natural resources. We have and will continue to work diligently to keep it that way — every day.
Barry Simonson, Duluth, is the director, Line 3 Replacement Project Execution.