2017-11-16 / Front Page

Enbridge Offers Pipeline Update

State Asks Company for Transparency
By Erich T. Doerr

The inspection and repair work on Enbridge Energy’s submerged Line 5 oil and natural gas pipeline is wrapping up for 2017 as winter approaches the Straits of Mackinac. The company talked by telephone to The St. Ignace News and other reporters Monday, November 13, about work that has been completed and is still to come.

Meanwhile, in Lansing, state officials called on Enbridge to give its Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) a full account on the current status of the pipeline after recent inspections of the line discovered additional gaps in the coating of its two gas and oil pipes beneath the Straits.

Enbridge executive Guy Jarvis has said that none of Enbridge’s findings so far have represented a risk to the safe operation of the pipeline.

Meeting on the telephone were Mr. Jarvis, the company’s executive vice president and president of Liquids Pipelines, Vice President of Pipeline Integrity Walter Kresic, and Vice President of United States Operations Brad Schamla.

Mr. Jarvis said work on the Straits section of Line 5 will be wrapped up near the end of November or early December. Within 30 days of that, the company will issue a full interim report to the state on the work done and the tasks ahead.

“We recognize the public’s interest in the work,” he said, “and are committed to providing timely updates on our findings.”

A status update was also sent to the state Monday afternoon.

The overview that Enbridge submitted to the state included the information about the pipeline’s coating inspections at anchor point locations the state had requested and the repairs Enbridge carried out in relation to its biota study, which look at the possible impacts of wildlife on the pipeline. The biology fieldwork has been completed but a final report won’t be ready until early 2018. The effort is focusing on the possible impacts of mussels and other aquatic organisms on the pipes. Samples taken by Enbridge divers have been sent to laboratories, but any contamination issue may require additional samples to be obtained.

The examination of the pipeline’s coating has accompanied the biota study and the company has developed a plan to repair eight locations where the coating was damaged. Six already have been repaired and a seventh will be repaired before work stops this year, weather permitting. The eighth repair will wait until 2018 because permits from the United States Army Corps of Engineers and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have not been issued. Mr. Jarvis said the last problem area is near the bottom of the line and will require Enbridge to move sediment on the lake floor to access it for repair.

All 128 support anchors have been inspected remotely and 48 of them will be more closely inspected by a team of divers. Eventually, divers will inspect all the supports. Enbridge says sand and sediment can build up against the pipe and divers can usually make a better inspection than the remote cameras. They do not expect many more diving inspections before winter.

Divers this fall located three spots of bare steel where the coating of the pipeline had been dislodged, ranging in size from 0.029 square feet to 0.63 square feet. Mr. Kresic said Enbut bridge doesn’t know how the coating was dislodged and is investigating. He said it is possible that something could have bumped the pipeline in these locations.

Enbridge divers work with a support crew from a barge and are able to communicate back to the surface. They check the pipe coating and how the pipe lies on the bottom. They will clean areas of the pipeline for a more intense inspection when it is needed. It typically takes one to two days to gather information on a section of the line, then several additional days to carry out any repairs if they are needed. The length of time the divers spend underwater varies by depth, with deeper dives meaning less time on the bottom and the need for the divers to decompress before surfacing.

Enbridge has used two barges of differing sizes. The crew includes 35 contractors and 25 Enbridge employees.

During the recent dives, the crew found several calcareous deposit clusters ranging from 0.004 square foot to 3.6 square feet in size. These deposits are formed by the pipeline’s cathodic protection system interaction with the water. Several of these deposits have been removed for research to confirm the protection system is working properly to prevent any corrosion on Line 5 itself. The examination of these samples exposed some bare steel that Enbridge will need to come back and repair later. Enbridge inspections have uncovered no evidence of corrosion on Line 5.

“A lot of work has been completed, but more has to be done,” Mr. Jarvis said. “We remain confident in the continued, safe operation of Line 5. We are committed to continuing to work with the state to evaluate all opportunities to further enhance the safe operation of Line 5 and improve the level of engagement and transparency in our operations.”

The state, meanwhile, had stern words for the Canadian company after the recent revelation that more gaps exist in the pipeline’s protective exterior coating then had been previously reported. Enbridge has been instructed to present findings to the PSAB at its upcoming Monday, December 11, meeting in Lansing. Information will include status of the protective coating, the anchors, recent Enbridge video inspections, and all of its automated in-line tool, hydrostatic, and biota testing.

The state recently requested an inspection of each anchor location following initial reports of the coating gaps. The information Enbridge has presented to the state on the first 48 anchors show that the majority of the areas inspected include gaps.

“This is very troubling and points out exactly why the state has been vigilant about getting information from Enbridge,” DEQ Director and PSAB Co-chair Heidi Grether said in a release. “It is essential that we get adequate and accurate information from Enbridge to allow the state to continue our pursuit of protecting the Great Lakes.”

“A year ago, Enbridge said there were no coating gaps in the Straits pipeline. Now, there are dozens. When will we know the full accounting of what Enbridge knows about Line 5?” Michigan Agency for Energy Executive Director and PSAB Co-chair Valerie Brader said in the same release. “I sincerely hope there are no more surprises when Enbridge gives their presentation to the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board in December.”

She said the state will be bringing in additional technical experts to look through the information Enbridge is providing.

Enbridge’s latest release of information arrives one week before the state releases the final version of its alternatives analyst report on Line 5. The independent contractor, Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, developed the report to find possible ways that the 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids moved through Line 5 could be transported without the section under the Straits. After its release Monday, November 20, there will be three public feedback sessions, including one in St. Ignace at te Little Bear East Conference Center, scheduled Tuesday, December 12. The others will be Wednesday, December 6, in Taylor and Wednesday, December 13, in Traverse City. A full version of this report will be posted on the PSAB Web site, mipetroleumpipelines.com, and the public also will have until Friday, December 22, to comment on the plan online or by mail to the Department of Environmental Quality, Attn: Line 5 Alternatives Analysis, P.O. Box 30473, Lansing, MI 48909- 7973.

The state will also conduct a risk analyst study on the pipeline and is in talks with Michigan Technological University Professor Guy Meadows to carry it out.

The state will use the information from the Enbridge presentation December 11, the risk analysis and alternatives reports, and an outside expert review to ensure it has all the information on Line 5 before making any decisions regarding its future.

Mr. Jarvis told the press Monday that working on Line 5 has been a learning experience for Enbridge in how it communicates with the public. He said Enbridge works as a riskbased organization and its focus on the items that pose the biggest problems is what internally drives its communication. At the Straits crossing, the company has found that public is interested in much more than just the biggest risks and wants to learn as much as possible about the lines and their operations. He said Enbridge, in the future, will need to be more transparent about aspects beyond risk.

“We understand the public is asking for more,” Mr. Jarvis said. “We understand those questions are going to government officials and, therefore, they need to be provided with more, as well.”

“We want to be transparent and open,” Mr. Kresic said. He admitted the company is technically oriented but needs to learn how to better communication with the public in language it will understand.

“Transparency is very important,” Mr. Schamla added. “We want to provide the information as soon as we can provide it and get that information out.”

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2017-11-16 digital edition