Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

"Enbridge ramps up to build" [Clipper and Southern Lights]

Enbridge ramps up to build
Published July 03 2009
Superior Telegram

Enbridge Energy is gearing up for construction of two pipelines designed to meet North American’s need for a reliable and secure energy supply.

The project includes construction of a 1,000-mile long, 36-inch diameter pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Superior; the line includes 326 miles to be constructed in the U.S., capable of carrying 450,000 barrels per day from the oil sands in Canada to its terminal in Superior.

The second pipeline consists of 188 miles of 20-inch pipeline adjacent to the first and capable of carry 180,000 barrels per day of diluents – light hydrocarbons – needed to thin the heavy crude coming from Canada. The line would run between Clearbrook, Minn., and Superior.

Known as the Alberta Clipper and Southern Lights pipeline projects, the construction projects are expected to get underway in August, creating about 3,000 temporary construction jobs.

Pipe and equipment has been stockpiled for the project and is ready to go.

“Enbridge has been expanding in general,” said spokeswoman Denise Hamsher. Two years ago, the company added capacity to its pipeline running south of Superior to Delavan, Ill., installing a 42-inch pipeline. She said even before that project was complete, the company recognized the need to add capacity north of Superior to Alberta.

“That project also requires tanks at our Superior terminal because of the way the crude comes in, in batches,” Hamsher said. “This is like a warehouse. All of the oil goes into that terminal before it goes out in the different pipelines.”

Plans include construction of five new tanks at the Enbridge Terminal in Superior. Each would have a capacity of storing 250,000 barrels of crude.

For the city of Superior, which receives an allocation of the state property taxes as host of the terminal facility, the impact of terminal expansion could be significant, depending how the state calculates the assessments, said Jeff Vito, Superior development and government affairs director. The exact impact is unknown, he said.

The city currently receives about $1.4 million annually – money that’s used for economic development and efforts to eliminate the city’s taxpayer-funded debt – of the $7.4 million the company paid statewide in 2008. The city is almost three years into the 12-year plan that would free up about $2 million annually in the city budget currently used to pay debt.

But, the project also promises to be a shot in the arm for the local construction trades, which have been hard hit in the face of global economic crisis.

The 326-mile project in the U.S. has been divided into six sections, each of which will require about 500 skilled tradespersons to build to meet the company’s goal of completing the project in 2010. More construction jobs will be created in Superior, where the tanks will be built, Hamsher said.

“We’re gearing up because the final permits are starting to roll in,” said Lorraine Grymala, community relations manager for Enbridge in Superior. “Most of the permits should be coming in by the end of July, which would mean we would start construction in August. There might be some activity that will be started out on the right of way pretty soon here. The bulk of the workers will be coming in, in August, but we’ll start to see more people showing up to do survey work and that kind of thing.”

Grymala said laborers, operators, Teamsters and pipefitters’ unions are lined up to work on the project.

“The spinoff, obviously, is we buy things locally,” Hamsher said. She said local vendors provide the company and construction workers with a wide array of services.

“Hopefully it will bridge us until the economy really climbs back next year,” Hamsher said.

It’s also a growth opportunity that benefits investors, many of whom live in Wisconsin and Minnesota, she said. And Enbridge investors have fared well in spite of the economic crises.

While members of Leech Lake and Fond du Lac have recently raised concerns about the pipeline, Hamsher said the company’s relationship with the tribal councils is a good one.

Currently, about 12 percent of the nation’s oil comes through Superior, Hamsher said. The project is expected to increase Enbridge’s capacity by about 20 percent when it reaches peak flow. Currently, about 1.6 million barrels per day flows through the U.S. portion of Enbridge’s pipeline.

“From the oil and energy side – the benefit is it’s a nice stable supply of crude oil,” Hamsher said. “In other parts of the United States – Louisiana and Texas – crude oil production is on the decline. So, unless we open up more fields for production, which we may, we’ve got to get crude oil from somewhere. We either get it from somewhere or we tap this growing supply in Canada.”


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