Enbridge Line 3 Oil Pipeline
|This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.|
Enbridge Line 3 Oil Pipeline is a major oil pipeline in the Enbridge Pipeline System that conveys petroleum from western Canada to its Superior Terminal in Wisconsin, United States. It carries light, medium, and heavy crude. It is also called the Lakehead Pipeline System and the Enbridge Mainline.
The pipeline originates in Edmonton, Alberta, and terminates in Superior, Wisconsin. The Enbridge Line 3 Oil Pipeline runs parallel to the Enbridge Line 1 Oil Pipeline, Enbridge Line 2 Oil Pipeline, and the Enbridge Line 4 Oil Pipeline.
- Operator: Enbridge
- Current capacity: 390,000 barrels per day
- Length: 1,099 miles (1,769 km)
- Diameter: 34-inches, 36-inches
- Status: Operating
- Start Year: 1967
The current Line 3 was built in 1962 and 1963.
In June 2020, federal environmental regulators fined Enbridge $6.7 million USD for allegedly violating a 2017 consent decree, saying the company failed to remedy pipeline-safety issues in a timely manner. The EPA noted, among other things, that Enbridge neglected to properly evaluate thousands of shallow dents on its Lakehead Pipeline System, which runs across northern Minnesota and through northwestern Wisconsin. The shallow dents indicate metal loss and cracking, and that the pipeline is in disrepair.
According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Line 3 experienced 15 failures since 1990 that resulted in more than 50 barrels of oil spilled during each incident. Corrosion and cracking has resulted in more than 950 excavations since 2000, and the pipeline "has had 10 times as many anomalies per mile as any other pipeline in the Mainline corridor" and is "susceptible to defects."
Line 3 Replacement
The Line 3 Replacement Program will fully replace 1,031 miles (1,660 kilometres) of Line 3 with new pipeline and associated facilities, with an expected placed-in-service date in 2019. The existing Line 3 pipeline will be decommissioned. It is the largest proposed project in Enbridge history. As of February 2020, the project is still considered to be in the proposal stage by Enbridge. The existing Line 3 pipeline will be decommissioned. It is the largest proposed project in Enbridge history.
Since 2010, Line 3 has been operating at 390,000 barrels per day — well short of its 760,000-barrel capacity — because of safety concerns. Enbridge says the replacement line would restore the flow to an average of 760,000 barrels per day, though it would have a capacity of 844,000 barrels.
Enbridge conducted an assessment of the Line 3 pipeline in 2013 that resulted in its decision to propose replacing the pipeline. The replacement program would restore the pipeline, which is operating at only about half its capacity for safety reasons, to its full capacity.
In June of 2019, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said it will not release its water-quality certification for the proposed replacement pipleine on July 1 as previously scheduled. The MPCA said it needs to consider an additional environmental review effectively ordered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals earlier this month. The appellate court earlier reversed the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) approval of the environmental-impact statement (EIS) for Line 3. The court deemed the EIS "inadequate" because it didn't properly address the impact of a potential future oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed.
As of August 2019, the PUC has taken no action since June, apparently waiting on yet another court decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Court is expected to rule by Sept. 3 whether it will hear a petition by pipeline opponents to overturn parts of the appeals court’s ruling that had affirmed the environmental statement. If the Supreme Court accepts the petition, the Line 3 process could be frozen for at least a year, causing lengthy delays for Enbridge’s construction plans. Even if the Supreme Court rejects the petition, fixing the environmental impact statement could take several months. And that means an important regulatory deadline in late October will almost certainly be missed.
Line 3 Replacement Project (U.S.)
The project involves the restoration of Line 3 to historical capacity by replacing the pipe along most of the route, 365 miles in the United States. The entire replacement project will go from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin. As of June 2020 the project was awaiting regulatory approvals, but construction had already begun with service expected to begin in the second half of 2020.
Under the U.S. component of the Line 3 Replacement Program, Enbridge is proposing to spend US$2.9 billion on 36-inch replacement pipeline spanning from Neche, North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin.
As of September 2017, Enbridge had obtained permits to construct the pipeline replacement in North Dakota and Wisconsin. Construction began on a 12-mile section of Line 3 replacement in Wisconsin in the Summer of 2017.
A Minnesota Department of Commerce (MDOC) analysis released in September 2017 found that the Line 3 Replacement Project was unnecessary for meeting long-term demand. MDOC energy regulatory division manager Kate O'Connell testified that "The high socioeconomic costs [of the Line 3 Replacement Project] outweigh the minimal benefits to Minnesota..." The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is not expected to issue a final decision on the proposed pipeline until Spring 2018.
In the U.S., the US$2.9-billion replacement initiative, known as the Line 3 Replacement Project, will consist of replacing existing 34-inch pipe with new 36-inch pipe for 13 miles in North Dakota, 337 miles in Minnesota, and 14 miles in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin portion was completed in 2018. As of June 2020, Enbridge was working with state and federal permitting agencies in Minnesota to finalize the permits required to start construction.
In November 2020, Enbridge received a set of permits from Minnesota regulators that will allow it to push ahead with its Line 3 replacement project. The approvals clear the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue the remaining federal permits for the project. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) noted in its announcement that it had placed its "most stringent" environmental protection conditions on the permits. Enbridge will be required to take "every precaution" to safeguard 730 acres of wetlands and more than 200 streams in northern Minnesota. To protect water quality, the 401 certification requires 35 specific conditions to ensure compliance with state water quality standards, including extensive mitigation and post-construction restoration requirements, seasonal restrictions, and protections for wild rice waters. According to MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop, "The MPCA has used sound science and thorough analysis to ensure that necessary safeguards are in place to protect Minnesota's waters. The 401 certification requires Enbridge to meet Minnesota's extensive water quality standards instead of lower federal standards."
U.S. Replacement Project Details
- Owner: Enbridge
- Capacity: 370,000 barrels per day
- Length: 0 new miles of pipeline, but 364 replacement miles
- Diameter: 36-inches
- Cost: US$2.9 billion
- Status: Construction
- Start Year: 2020
Line 3 Replacement Program (Canada)
Under the Canadian component of the Line 3 Replacement Program, Enbridge is proposing to spend CAN$5.3 billion to replace all remaining segments of its Line 3 pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta and Superior, Wisconsin. The project includes the replacement of existing 34-inch-diameter pipe with 36-inch-diameter pipe from Hardisty to Gretna, Manitoba, and Neche, North Dakota, to Superior.
In Canada, construction wrapped up on the Line 3 Replacement Program—spanning a 665-mile (1,070-km) portion of Line 3 between between Hardisty, Alberta and Gretna, Manitoba—in May 2019. The 36-inch-diameter replacement pipeline began commercial service in December 2019.
Canada's Replacement Project Details
- Operator: Enbridge
- Proposed capacity: 370,000 additional barrels per day (760,000 total barrels per day)
- Length: 0 new miles, but 665 replacement miles
- Status: Operating
- Start Year: 2019
In July 2017, Minnesota Department of Commerce's tribal liaison Danielle Oxendine Molliver resigned from her position in protest of the Line 3 pipeline environmental review process. Molliver said she was told she could only be a greeter and not answer questions about the pipeline's impact on Tribes after Enbridge complained to the Governor's office about her involvement. Currently, the pipeline runs through the Leech Lake and Fod du Lac reservations in Minnesota. While the route of the proposed Line 3 would go around the reservations, it would run through a disputed area that the White Earth band claims is within its reservation, as well as areas "ceded" by Tribes in the 1800s where they maintain hunting and fishing rights.
In August 2017, the Minnesota Department of Commerce published its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS found that all of the Line 3 replacement project routes would have a "disproportionate and adverse effect on tribal resources and tribal members." At least four of Minnesota's Ojibwe bands submitted comments on the draft EIS opposing the proposed Line 3 replacement project. The final EIS further stated that Tribal members commented that "all of the proposed routes, including either keeping the current Line 3 in place or abandoning it, would add to the negative mental, spiritual, and physical health impacts already disproportionately suffered by American Indian populations."
In August and September 2017, water protectors and other groups of protesters interrupted Line 3 replacement construction in Wisconsin on at least five separate occasions, resulting in at least 11 arrests.
On February 4 of 2019, four climate activists in Blackberry Township, Minnesota closed safety valves on a crude oil pipeline belonging to the Canadian energy corporation Enbridge. This is an escalation of ongoing activism aimed at Enbridge, which is facing stiff resistance to their plan to build a new high capacity crude oil pipeline, Line 3, through Minnesota and across multiple Native American reservations. This marks the second time in just over two years that activists have shut down Enbridge pipelines, citing the urgency of climate change. The four activists broke into a fenced area containing emergency safety valves for Enbridge lines 1, 3 & 4. The activists, who are affiliated with the Catholic Worker movement, are Michele Naar Obed of Duluth, MN, Allyson Polman, Brenna Cussen Anglada, and Daniel Yildirim. The four were taken into custody by Itasca County Sheriffs at around 1:30pm. The three pipelines cross three Native American reservations and hundreds of miles of un-ceded treaty territory. In October of 2018 two activists were acquitted in Clearwater County court for a similar pipeline shut down. Those activists, Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, shut down Enbridge Lines 4 & 67 in a multi-state coordinated action in 2016 that closed down all the tar sands flowing from Canada into the United States. In their criminal trial, the activists set precedence in Minnesota court allowing climate activists to argue that their actions are justifiable due to the necessity of taking action on climate change.
Reacting to Minnesota regulators' decision to issue permits to Enbridge in November 2020, Margaret Levin, director of the Sierra Club’s Minnesota chapter, commented: "The science is clear that Line 3 would threaten Minnesota’s clean water and set back our state’s progress on climate at a time when we can least afford it." Following the announcement of the permitting, hundreds of Indigenous and other activists assembled outside the Minnesota Governer's Mansion to peacefully protest against the decision and to pledge further resistance to the project.
Articles and resources
- Enbridge Line 3 Oil Pipeline, Enbridge, accessed September 2017
- Line 3 Replacement Program (Canada), Enbridge, accessed September 2017
- Enbridge Pipeline System, Wikipedia, accessed September 2017
- Enbridge’s Energy Infrastructure Assets Enbrdige, July 22, 2020
- Environmental Impact Statement: Executive Summary, Minnesota Department of Commerce, 17 Aug. 2017
- Mike Hughlett, EPA fines Enbridge $6.7 million for response to pipeline-safety issues Star Tribune, June 18, 2020
- Line 3 Replacement Program, Enbridge, accessed September 2017
- Line 3 Replacement Program, Enbridge, accessed February 2020
- Enbridge's new pipeline across northern Minnesota not needed, state says, Star Tribune, 11 Sep. 2017
- Line 3 Replacement Project (U.S.), Enbridge, accessed September 2017
- Report: Enbridge Line 3 options all would have negative effect on American Indians, Star Tribune, 17 Aug. 2017
- Enbridge's proposed $2.6 billion pipeline hits another snag Star Tribune, June 18, 2019
- Mike Hughlett, An oil pipeline approved without controversy in Minnesota? Seems so Star Tribune, August 22, 2019
- Petroleum & Other Liquids, Movements, Energy Information Administration, June 4, 2020
- Enbridge's Line 3 to cost more, profit lower-than-expected, CNBC, 3 Aug. 2017
- Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement Underway In Wisconsin, Wisconsin Public Radio, 26 Jul. 2017
- MPCA requires stringent water quality requirements for Enbridge’s Line 3 project, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency press release, Nov. 12, 2020
- Construction starts on Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement from Hardisty to Wisconsin, Edmonton Journal, 3 Aug. 2017
- Tribal Liaison in Minnesota Pipeline Review is Sidelined after Oil Company Complains to Governor, The Intercept, 12 Aug. 2017
- More Arrests Made At Pipeline Construction Site, KDAL News, 8 Sep. 2017
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Climate Activists Shut Down Enbridge Pipelines in Northern Minnesota Climate Disobedience Center, accessed January 2019
- Steve Karnowski, Minnesota regulators grant key permits for contentious oil pipeline project TwinCities.com, Nov. 12, 2020
- St. Paul, MN - Protests in front of MN Gov Mansion after #Enbridge Line 3 #tarsands pipeline received permits, NDN Collective Twitter account, Nov. 14, 2020