Few can forget the Enbridge Inc. pipeline oil spill that plagued Calhoun County, Mich. during the summer of 2010.
Now nearly two years later, Enbridge has announced plans to retrofit its 6B pipeline, which spans 293-miles from Griffith, Ind. to Marysville, Mich.
Enbridge, considered by many to be the FedEx of petroleum transportation, says the project is based-off a dramatic spike in demand for North American oil. Company executives add that once complete, 6B will operate with significantly increased productivity and safety.
“This pipeline is an important part of the energy infrastructure here in Michigan and the Midwest. It serves a number of regional refineries that produce gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, asphalt; products that we use everyday. So it is very important to meet that demand,” Enbridge project spokesman Joe Martucci said.
Since its installation in 1969, Enbridge crews have made frequent and costly repairs to pipeline 6B. While a federal investigation is still underway, many conservationists believe its age played a significant role in the July 25, 2010 rupture. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, that spill spewed an estimated 843,444 gallons of crude oil into a handful of Central Michigan waterways.
"Yes we had a pretty big problem two summers ago, which prompted Congress to act on a bi-partisan basis and we renewed, we re-authorized, we improved the safety standards for any new pipeline in the country,” Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan’s 6th District said.
Starting next month, Enbridge will utilize those new guidelines when it breaks ground on $1.9 billion total overhaul of its 6B pipeline.
Phase-one, set to be complete by the year's end, will retrofit 75-miles of pipeline, including spans through LaPorte and Niles.
If approved, phase-two would fill in the gaps, doubling 6B’s current daily capacity of 243,000 barrels to more than 500,000.
"By putting in the new pipe with heavier walls and a new fusion bond, it gives an added measure of protection, as compared to what's in the ground now,” Martucci added.
"So it's a good thing for everyone involved. We know it's going to involve thousands of employees, but also people along the route are going to know that it's safe and that's what's really important,” Rep. Upton, the current chairman of The Committee on Energy and Commerce, concluded.
During the height of construction, Enbridge expects to employ 1,000 workers; roughly half-of-which will be local hires. In addition, industry experts predict the expanded pipeline will keep Great Lakes petroleum prices lower during turbulent times, as Midwest refineries will have a greater supply of oil.