Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline is a major oil and natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline in the Enbridge Pipeline System, which conveys petroleum and propane from western Canada to eastern Canada via the Great Lakes states. Line 5 is particularly notable for passing under the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. The 645-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline is capable of carrying up to 540,000 barrels of oil per day.[1] It can carry synthetic crude, natural gas liquids, sweet crude, and light sour crude, as well as NGL, which is refined into propane.[1]


The pipeline originates in Superior, Wisconsin, travels through the Upper and Lower Peninsulas in Michigan, and terminates in Sarnia, Ontario.[2]

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Project details

  • Operator:
  • Owner: Enbridge[3]
  • Parent company: Enbridge[3]
  • Capacity: 540,000 barrels per day[3]
  • Length: 645 miles[3]
  • Diameter: 30 inches[3]
  • Status: Operating[3]
  • Start year: 1953[4]


A detailed map of the pipeline's route

The pipeline runs between two major nodes of the Enbridge Pipeline System at Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario. The Enbridge terminal at Superior conveys western Canadian crude oil from various incoming pipelines (including lines 1–4) to Line 5 and Line 6, which go around the northern and southern shores of Lake Michigan, respectively.

From Superior, Line 5 travels east to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then runs southeast to Rapid River, near Escanaba. At Rapid River, natural gas liquids (NGL) are side stream delivered for stripping, and the stripped NGLs are reinjected.[5]

From Rapid River, the pipeline runs near the northern shore of Lake Michigan until it reaches the Straits of Mackinac. There the pipeline divides into two separate 20-inch lines, which reunite when they reach the southern side of the straits.[5] The lines are buried until they reach a depth of convert 65 feet.[6] The lines descend to a depth of approximately 270 feet under the straits.

Once on land again in the Lower Peninsula, Line 5 runs near Interstate 75 to Bay City, Michigan.[7] At the Lewiston pumping station, US sweet crude may be injected.[5] From Lewiston, Line 5 loops around Saginaw Bay, then runs southeast to the St. Clair River.

Just before the St. Clair River, Line 5 reaches the Marysville pumping station. Volumes destined for Michigan and Ohio refineries such as BP-Husky Refinery and Marathon Detroit Refinery are offloaded there,[5] and transferred to a Sunoco pipeline that runs from Marysville to Toledo.[8]

The line then proceeds east across the St. Clair River to Ontario, where it rejoins Enbridge Line 6 and terminates at Sarnia.[9] Any volumes not destined for Sarnia-area refineries are there pumped into tanks for transfer to Enbridge Line 7.[5]


Construction on Line 5 was completed in 1953 by the Bechtel Corporation[10] for the Lakehead Pipeline Company.[1][4] The pipelines from western Canada to Superior had been completed in 1950; prior to the construction of Line 5, the crude oil was conveyed from Superior to southern Ontario by oil tankers.[11]

In 2013, the line's capacity was increased by 50,000 barrels per day, from 490,000 to 540,000 barrels.[12] The upgrade involved US$100 million in improvements to pumping stations, but no change to the actual pipes.[13]


The 2013 expansion, coupled with the anticipated expansion of the Alberta Clipper pipeline, led to concerns from the National Wildlife Federation and other groups over the possible shipment of diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands through Line 5.[14] However, Enbridge has denied any plans to pump such materials. A 2011 toll agreement describes the materials as "condensate, light synthetic, sweet, light sour and NGL,"[5] as does a 2013 summary of the Mainline System.[5] Due to national security concerns, however, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration does not divulge the materials actually carried on major US pipelines, including Line 5.[14]

Public concerns have particularly focused on the risk of a spill under the Straits of Mackinac, and the difficulty of controlling any spill that might occur.[12] According to Enbridge, the pipes under the straits have never leaked, are monitored 24 hours a day, and are regularly inspected by underwater autonomous vehicles.[1] However, there have been numerous spills elsewhere in Michigan from Enbridge pipelines, including a major Line 5 spill at Crystal Falls, Michigan in 1999, as well as the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill on Line 6.[14] Line 5 has spilled at least 30 times[15] and at least 1.1 million gallons along its length since 1968. Enbridge’s pipelines, which run about 1,000 feet apart at depths ranging from 100 - 270 feet, have laid on the bottom of the Straits for more than six decades. Enbridge installed several support structures under the pipelines in 2006 and again in 2010, following the company’s oil spill into the Kalamazoo River - the nation’s largest-ever land-based oil spill. The pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac cross one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world. The Great Lakes are home to 20 percent of the fresh surface water on the planet. University of Michigan scientists modeled the currents in the Straits of Mackinac and called it "the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes." Despite these risks, Enbridge submitted a plan to build a tunnel for Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. This would keep oil flowing and Great Lakes at risk for a spill for several years, and would most certainly open the door for Enbridge to upgrade the entire pipeline to carry toxic tar sands oil - the dirtiest fossil fuel with the biggest contribution to climate change.[16]

By the end of 2015, eight Michigan counties or municipalities were calling for the retirement of Line 5 including Cheboygan, Cheboygan County, Emmet County, Genesee County, Mackinaw City, Mentor Township, Munising Township, and Wayne County.[17]

Between 2015 and 2017, The Bay Mills Indian Community, Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA), Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan Indian Elders Association, Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians (a.k.a Gun Lake Tribe), Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, and Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians all passed resolutions in support of decommissioning, removing and/or shutting down of the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.[18]

In August 2017, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he was "greatly concerned" about revelations by Enbridge confirming at least two areas of the pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac had lost their protective coating used to prevent corrosion down to bare metal.[19] The revelation came after years of denials by Enbridge that there were any portions of the pipeline that had lost protective coating down to bare metal.[20] The Michigan Agency for Energy, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Michigan State Police echoed the concern in a press release calling for the immediate inspection of areas around every anchor on Line 5, a report to the DNR and DEQ of any findings from the inspections, a copy of the video of the recent work performed on the pipeline, and repair within 30 days of any damage to the pipeline’s coating.[21]

Another area of opposition has focused on 12 miles of Line 5 that cross through the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.[22] As of September 2017, Enbridge was working with the US National Forest Service to renew a special use permit for the section, which expired in 2013.[22] Enbridge characterized the permit expiration as an "oversight" stemming from staff turnover in a 2014 letter to Forest Service.[22]

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who replaced Governor Rick Snyder in a 2018 election, ran on a platform that supported shutting down the Enbridge Line 5. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a fellow Democrat who also campaigned on shutting down Line 5, said legislation to allow for construction of the US$350 million to US$500 million tunnel, approved during the lame-duck session during the last days of the administration of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, violates the state constitution. Critics say that the line mostly moves Canadian oil to Canadian markets, and there are other ways to deliver propane to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and the Great Lakes would continue to face unacceptable risk of a catastrophic spill during the roughly 10 years it's expected to take to construct the tunnel. As of April 2019, it is unclear who will make the next move, the Whitmer administration shutting down the pipelines, or Enbridge appealing the administration's decision in the courts.[23]

In June 2020, a Michigan Circuit Court Judge ordered Enbridge to temporarily halt operations of Line 5 over continuing concerns about a potential spill in the Great Lakes. The judgment stemmed from an incident in mid-June when a screw anchor support for a segment of the pipeline in the Mackinac Straits had shifted from its original position, resulting in Michigan officials filing court motions asking to shut down the line until the state had fully reviewed the information.[24]

In September 2021 research was released "to identify impacts of construction and continued operation of Line 5 on the ability of Tribesto exercise treaty guaranteed rights in a defined study area within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF)" as well as provide information to inform the United States Forest Service’s "decision regarding whether, or under what conditions, to reauthorize the special use permit that allows the continued operation of Line 5 on property currently administered by CNNF."[25]

Michigan governor takes action to shut down Line 5

In November 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer took legal action to shut down Line 5, with her office notifying Enbridge that it was revoking an easement granted in 1953 to extend a roughly 4-mile section of the pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac. In a statement, Governor Whitmer's office informed that Michigan state had found that Enbridge had repeatedly violated the 1953 easement and that the continued operation of the dual pipelines violates the state’s solemn duty to protect the Great Lakes under the public trust doctrine. The formal notice, taken after a 15 month review of what the governor's office described as Enbridge's "historic failures and current non-compliance," requires the company to cease operations of the dual pipelines in the Straits by May 2021, thereby allowing for an orderly transition that protects Michigan’s energy needs until that time. The public statement also noted that the action to revoke and terminate the 1953 easement does not prevent Enbridge from continuing to seek the necessary legal approvals to construct a previously floated tunnel alternative.[26]

Following permitting approval for the pipeline section from Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in January 2021,[27] the US Army Corps of Engineers announced in June 2021 that it would conduct an extensive review – an environmental impact statement – of Enbridge's plan. This will include a consideration of reasonable alternatives and could take years to complete. Enbridge had planned to start construction work in 2021. On the day of the Corps' announcement, Enbridge's shares closed 0.4% down at C$49.08 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.[28]

According to EarthJustice as of Early 2022, Enbridge has been operating the the dual pipelines in the Straits illegally since May 2021.[15]

Bad River Relocation Project

In 1953, Enbridge received easements from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to construct the 12-mile segment of Line 5 through the Bad River Reservation. However, the consultation process was not thorough, according to the Bad River Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.[15] In 2017, following historic floods, the Bad River Tribal Council "passed a resolution to state that the Tribe would not be renewing its interests in the rights of way across the Bad River Reservation and to direct the removal of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline from the entire Bad River Watershed."[4] In 2019, the council passed another resolution reiterating their decision.[4] Also in 2019, the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians of the Bad River Reservation sued Enbridge, alleging "Enbridge no longer has the legal right to operate Line 5 across the full reach of the Reservation corridor."[29]

According to EarthJustice, "Instead of removing the pipeline, Enbridge drafted two relocation plans: one within the Reservation boundaries and a second that situated the pipeline around the Reservation but still within the surrounding Bad River watershed."[15]

The relocation project consists of 41 miles of new 30-inch diameter pipe within Ashland, Bayfield, and Iron County, WI.[30] A draft Environmental Impact statement says that approximately 20 miles of the existing 30-inch-diameter Line 5 Pipeline in the Bad River Reservation in Ashland and Iron Counties would be abandoned.[31]

In January 2022, activists staged an event calling on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Army Corps of Engineers to deny permits for the pipeline. The action was organized by 350 Madison and the Sierra Club Wisconsin.[32]

In February 2022, at a DNR Public Hearing, 88% of speakers testified against the project and while 12% spoke in favor of it.[33]

In March 2022, the EPA submitted a 31-page letter of concern to the DNR, issuing nearly 200 recommendations for the DNR to strengthen their review of the pipeline.[34][35]

In April 2022, Indigenous women leaders from Great Lakes tribes called for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) "to fully review and reject a Line 5 project in northern Wisconsin."[36] In a letter to USACE activists stated that both current Line 5 and the proposed Line 5 expansion threaten to irreversibly damage our drinking water, our ecosystems, and manoomin [wild rice]. Both the existing and proposed pipelines violate our tribal usufructuary rights. They endanger the Great Lakes’ waters and fisheries important to many people. They exacerbate the climate crisis that affects the whole planet."[10] The letter was endorsed more than 200 groups including the Sierra Club, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth and Center for Biological Diversity.[36]

In September 2022, a US federal judge ruled that Enbridge had trespassed on Bad River tribal lands and was "unjustly enriched" at the tribe's expense, and ordered as-yet undetermined financial compensation to be paid by Enbridge to the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. However, the judge denied the tribe's request for the pipeline to be shut down.[37][38]

In June 2023, a federal judge in Wisconsin gave Enbridge three years to reroute Line 5 off the Bad River Reservation or to shut it down, after Enbridge requested five years. According to Oil & Gas Journal, the judge expressed doubt that the reroute could be accomplished in either time frame, given ongoing opposition. Enbridge was ordered to pay US$5.15 million to the Lake Superior Tribe of the Chippewa, and to continue paying until the line is off the tribe's land. [39]

Expansion projects

Line 5 Replacement Project

In February 2020, Enbridge Pipelines proposed a project replacing its Line 5 crude oil pipeline beneath the St. Clair.[40] The project will add a half kilometer of new pipeline and was first approved in 2012.[41]

  • Operator:
  • Owner: Enbridge[3]
  • Parent company: Enbridge[3]
  • Capacity:
  • Length: 0.5 kilometers[41]
  • Status: Proposed[41]
  • Start year: 2024[42]

Bad River Relocation Project

  • Operator:
  • Owner: Enbridge[30]
  • Parent company: Enbridge[30]
  • Capacity:
  • Length: 41.1 miles[30]
  • Cost: $450 million[31]
  • Status: Proposed[30]
  • Start year: 2026[39]
Map of northern Wisconsin showing proposed pipelines routes from Enbridge
Enbridge is proposing a reroute of Line 5 around the Bad River Reservation. Three proposed routes are shown. RA-02 appears to be the most likely.

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 About Line 5, Enbridge, accessed September 2017
  2. National Energy and Petrochemical Map , FracTracker, February 28, 2020
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Enbridge’s Energy Infrastructure Assets Enbrdige, July 22, 2020
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Mashkiiziibii Natural Resources Department (February 2020). "Enbridge Line 5 Issues Within the Bad River Reservation" (PDF). Bad River Tribe. Retrieved July 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Enbridge Pipelines Inc. (July 1, 2011). "Competitive Toll Settlement" (PDF). p. 89. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
  6. "Line 5 Underwater Images". Enbridge. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  7. Sherburne, Morgan (July 12, 2013). "Enbridge to Increase Oil Flow under Straits, Rally Planned". Petoskey News. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  8. "Crude Oil Pipeline System". Sunoco. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  9. "Pipeline System Configuration: Quarter 1, 2013". Enbridge. 2013. p. 1. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. {{cite web}}: Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Letter to ACOE Concerning Line 5" (PDF). April 27, 2022. Retrieved July 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. Simonson, Mike (January 25, 2013). "Bakken Boom Has Calumet Considering Building Oil Loading Dock in Superior". BusinessNorth. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. {{cite news}}: Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Office of Debbie Stabenow (December 11, 2013). "Senators Stabenow and Levin Urge Transportation Department to Verify Safety of Enbridge Pipeline in Great Lakes". Press release. Retrieved on March 31, 2014.
  13. Enbridge to increase oil flow under Straits, rally planned, Petoskey News, 12 Jul. 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Leahy, Derek (March 6, 2014). "Concerns Mount About 61-Year Old Enbridge Pipeline in the Great Lakes". Desmog Canada. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Sivaraman, Bala (January 31, 2022). "https://earthjustice.org/blog/2022-january/line-5-pipeline-wisconsin-bad-river-explainer". EarthJustice. Retrieved July 15, 2022. {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. The Problem Oil and Water Don't Mix, accessed April 2019
  17. Oil & Water Don't Mix (2015) "Local governments are issuing resolutions calling for the shutdown of the flow of oil in Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac"
  18. "Tribal Supporters". Oil & Water Don't Mix. Retrieved 2022-07-15.
  19. Line 5 bare metal exposed in coating gaps, Enbridge confirms, M Live, 30 Aug. 2017
  20. Outer wrap coating has failed on parts of Line 5, Enbridge confirms, M Live, 14 Mar. 2017
  21. State agencies call for immediate repair of damage to coating on Straits pipeline, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 30 Aug. 2017
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Pipeline protest takes new approach: Enbridge’s Line 5 latest to be scrutinized West Fargo Pioneer, 1 Sep. 2017
  23. Here's what's next in fight over Enbridge Line 5 pipeline in Straits of Mackinac Detroit Free Press, accessed April 2019
  24. Kevin Orland, "Enbridge ordered to shut Line 5 pipeline in victory for Michigan officials" Financial Post, Jun. 25, 2020
  25. Chiriboga, Esteban (September 4, 2021). "Decision Support Analysis of Line 5 within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest:The Impact on Tribal Treaty Rights, Past and Present, and Planning for the Future". Pipelines in the Ceded Territories. Retrieved July 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. "Governor Whitmer Takes Action to Shut Down the Line 5 Dual Pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac After a Reasonable Transition Period to Protect the State's Energy Needs", The Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Release, Nov. 13, 2020
  27. John Flesher, "Army Corps plans extensive review of Great Lakes tunnel plan", Associated Press, Jun. 23, 2021
  28. Nia Williams, "Enbridge says tougher environmental review will delay Line 5 tunnel project", Reuters, Jun. 23, 2021
  29. "Case: 3:19-cv-00602-wmc". Wisconsin DNR. October 15, 2019. Retrieved July 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 30.4 "Enbridge Pipeline Projects in Wisconsin | | Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wisconsin.gov. Retrieved 2022-07-15.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 "Enbridge Proposed Line 5 Relocation Project: Draft Environmental Impact Statement". Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. December 2021. Retrieved July 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. "Wisconsinites Call for Rejection of Line 5". Sierra Club. 2022-01-14. Retrieved 2022-07-15.
  33. With, Barbara (February 7, 2022). "CITIZENS EXPOSE GROSS INADEQUACIES IN ENBRIDGE LINE 5 DRAFT EIS, TELL DNR TO DO THEIR JOB". Stop Line 3. Retrieved July 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. Kaeding, Danielle (25 July 2022). "Environmentalists say Wisconsin failed to fully review an oil pipeline project's risks. The EPA agrees". Wisconsin Public Radio. [/web/20230207183555/https://www.wpr.org/enbridge-line-5-northern-wisconsin-evironmentalist-review-epa-dnr-recommendations Archived] from the original on 7 February 2023. Retrieved 7 February 2023. {{cite web}}: Check |archive-url= value (help)
  35. United States EPA letter, "Comments on the State Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Enbridge Line 5 Relocation Project in Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, and Iron Counties, Wisconsin."
  36. 36.0 36.1 Stebbins, Laura (May 10, 2022). "Indigenous women leaders say Line 5 reroute project would be cultural, environmental 'genocide'". Honor Earth. Retrieved July 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  37. Kaeding, Danielle (8 September 2022). "Federal judge finds Enbridge trespassed on Bad River lands, but stops short of shutting down Line 5". Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  38. Pember, Mary Annette (9 September 2022). "Judge orders 'trespassing' Enbridge to pay Bad River". Indian Country Today. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  39. 39.0 39.1 "https://www.ogj.com/general-interest/government/article/14295367/court-gives-enbridge-3-years-to-reroute-part-of-line-5-pipeline-in-wisconsin". {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  40. Enbridge to begin work to replace Line 5 pipeline St. Clair River crossing Great Lakes Commission, February 3, 2020
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 Asset Data, IJGlobal, accessed Aug. 27, 2020
  42. Jordan Blum, Enbridge moves closer to Line 3 construction while Line 5 shutdown is threatened, S&P Global Platts, Nov. 16, 2020

Related GEM.wiki articles

External resources

Wikipedia also has an article on Enbridge Line 5. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

External articles