February 19, 2014 - Before Enbridge, Inc. begins construction this year on a new crude oil pipeline to replace an existing one running through Oxford and Addison townships, the Canadian energy company wishes to meet with residents to give them an idea of what's going to happen and answer any questions they might have.
Enbridge representatives will do this during the 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 12 Oxford Township Board meeting, which will take place at the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center, located downtown at 28 N. Washington St.
"We will do a quick presentation and hopefully, answer as many questions as time will allow," said Dan Dancer, the public affairs construction liaison for Enbridge.
Dancer is inviting both the owners of property where the work will take place and the general public to attend this informational meeting.
"We often have neighbors who have lots of concerns," he explained. "If you own property on the (pipeline) right-of-way, then you'll have a right-of-way agent who you communicate with often.
"But your neighbor across the street could be as in the dark as anybody about what's going on, and yet construction is just next door to him."
Enbridge plans to replace approximately 50 miles of Line 6B with new 30-inch diameter pipeline – the same size as the existing one – from Brandon Township to the St. Clair River in Marysville. This portion is known as Segment 8.
Line 6B is a 285-mile crude oil pipeline that begins in Indiana, crosses southeastern Michigan and ends in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. It serves refineries in Michigan, Ohio and eastern Canada.
The portion that runs through Oxford Township is approximately 6.5 miles in length, while Addison's portion is approximately 6 miles long.
Dancer wants to make sure the public has an accurate and realistic understanding about what's going to happen when construction begins April 1.
"Constructing this pipeline's a big job and at times, it's going to be inconvenient and at times, it's going to be a mess. But I want to be sure that we say that up front," he said. "If you are a landowner (with pipeline right-of-way), you're going to see big piles of dirt and excavators in your backyard."
The general public will experience some effects as well.
For example, drivers may encounter delays on local roads as construction equipment enters and exits sites.
"Some of the equipment may take a few minutes to get across a road," Dancer said.
Or the trucks may leave a mess on the road.
"Every crew has a road sweeper, but there may be times when . . . there's dirt or mud on the road when you go by," Dancer said. "We work our hardest to keep that stuff clean."
Also, as with any construction project, Dancer said some of the work will be noisy at times.
The bottom-line is Dancer said he wants to be honest with people about what's coming.
"I don't want to tell people, 'Oh, no problem, it's not going to be inconvenient,' because that's not true," he said. "It's a big job. It's going to be inconvenient to some folks. It's going to be a mess for some folks."
But Dancer assured that Enbridge "will do everything we can to minimize that and to mitigate it as it happens."
Overall, Dancer said the project is going to be "safe" and "rational."
"It's not going to be chaotic or reckless," he said. "And when we're done, we will put (the affected area) back exactly as it was or better."
"Every property owner has to sign off before we're done," Dancer noted. "Those property owners include the county road commission, whose roads need to be put back in the shape they were in before we got there."
Speaking of roads, Dancer said he often hears a lot of concerns about the weight-related impact of their trucks on the road.
People see these long trucks containing three 80-foot lengths of 30-inch diameter pipe and they say, "Hey, you're destroying our roads with all that." That's not true, according to Dancer.
"The pipe is very, very light," he explained.
Each pipe length weighs 9,500 pounds.
"We're not destroying the roads the way you think we might be because actually, we're tons (below) the road (weight) limits and the axle limits. For the period of time we're stringing (pipe), there's going to be a lot of those trucks coming down the roads."
Originally, Enbridge was supposed to begin this construction project last year, but the company didn't get the necessary permits from the state until late August.
"We were very late getting our permits," said Dancer, who noted that although the permits for Segment 8 were applied for at the same time as the other pipeline segments, "this segment took longer to be approved."
After receiving the permits, Dancer said Enbridge cleared some trees and brush from the right-of-way, "but we didn't break any grade, meaning we didn't dig anything up,"
"That was the thing we didn't want to do," he said. Why? Because winter was right around the corner.
"There was a tough decision to be made," Dancer said. "Did we want to break grade before winter came and risk it being a real mess or wait for spring and hope for better weather?"
Enbridge chose the latter.
"I think we probably made the right decision seeing how much snow we've had, and how long and hard and cold it's been," Dancer said.
That's why in some areas, Enbridge cut down trees, but left the stumps in place.
"I've spent a fair amount of time explaining that we cut the trees down, but the stumps will come out when we break the grade," Dancer said.
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 existing 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 be taken apart, divided into small segments and capped.
Each of these small, capped 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.
"It's standard practice in the industry that they become nitrogen lines, as they're called," Dancer said.
Enbridge will maintain the old line's cathodic protection to ensure there's no external corrosion, either.
As Enbridge Spokesman Jason Manshum previously explained to the Leader, the company 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, he said.
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. He explained they would be without crude oil during six-to-12 months that the pipeline would be out of service.
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.