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Enbridge delays major pipeline work until 2014

November 13, 2013 - The majority of construction on Enbridge's crude oil pipeline through Oxford and Addison townships will not begin until spring of next year.

That was the word from Jason Manshum, spokesman for the Canadian energy distribution company, in a Nov. 1 letter sent to Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn.

Originally, Enbridge had planned to complete construction on all segments of its Line 6B crude oil pipeline this year.

"Despite our best efforts to meet this schedule, construction on Segment 8 (of Line 6B) is being adjusted due to timing of receipt of final environmental approvals and seasonal constraints," Manshum wrote.

"We will resume the work as soon as weather permits in 2014, and anticipate completing Segment 8 construction by mid-2014."

This scheduling adjustment affects communities in Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties.

Enbridge believes this delay will ultimately be beneficial for itself, those doing the work and residents that would be affected by the project.

"By conducting the majority of construction activities, such as excavation, installation and restoration next spring, it will allow us to minimize disruptions to landowners and impacts to the environment because work can be completed in one season," Manshum wrote.

"In addition, we can avoid construction challenges and potential damages associated with freezing weather, including road frost bans and slippery road conditions. As always, the safety of our workers and the public will continue to remain our highest priority."

In preparation for the construction project, Enbridge has been surveying, staking and clearing the pipeline right-of-way and will continue to do so for the rest of the year.

"Maintenance digs and other work on the existing pipeline may also be conducted during this time," Manshum wrote. "We are evaluating whether some construction at select river and stream crossings could occur through the fall and winter."

Line 6B is a 285-mile pipeline that begins in Indiana, crosses southeastern Michigan and ends in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. It serves refineries in Michigan, Ohio and eastern Canada.

Enbridge plans to replace approximately 50 miles of Line 6B with new 30-inch diameter pipeline – the same size as the existing one – from Ortonville to the St. Clair River in Marysville.

The portion that runs through Oxford Township is approximately 6.5 miles in length, while Addison's portion is approximately 6 miles long.

The old underground pipeline will not be removed to make way for the new one. It will be left in place where it will run parallel and adjacent to the new line using the same right-of-way.

Once the new line is tied in and activated, the old line will be deactivated.

Deactivation involves purging all the oil from the old line and cleaning it thoroughly to remove any remaining crude. The old line is then taken apart, divided into small segments and capped.

Each of these segments will be filled with nitrogen and pressurized. They will then be monitored for signs of internal corrosion as long as the old line exists.

Enbridge will maintain the old line's cathodic protection to ensure there's no external corrosion, either.

Enbridge cannot simply abandon the old pipeline. It's a federal requirement that the company must maintain the line as if it was still in operation.

Manshum had previously told the Leader that it's "pretty standard in the energy transportation industry" to build a new pipeline along side the old one, then leave the latter in place.

To take the old line out of service, remove it and replace it with a new one would be impractical for Enbridge's customers, the oil refineries, according to Manshum. They would be without crude oil for the six-to-12 months that the pipeline would be out of service, he explained.

Coming back and removing the old pipeline once the new one is activated would be inconvenient and disruptive for landowners who would have their properties dug up and disturbed a second time, according to Manshum.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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