Enbridge Restarts Controversial Line 5 After Shutdown

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By Tsvetana Paraskova, Oilprice.com

Enbridge restarted its Line 5 carrying Canadian light crude and refined products across the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan to the U.S. on Tuesday afternoon, after the line was shut down earlier in the day due to high waves and bad weather, Enbridge has said.

High winds and waves in the Straits of Mackinac prompted Enbridge Energy to temporarily suspend operation of its Line 5, the Michigan Agency for Energy said on Tuesday. Enbridge told the State that Line 5 was shut down at 11:37 a.m. ET on Tuesday, and would restart the pipeline when conditions improve, according to the Michigan agency.

Enbridge spokesman Michael Barnes told Reuters that Line 5 was restarted at 4:40 p.m. ET when weather improved.

The suspension of operations of highly debated Line 5 stems from hard-won provisions in an agreement between the State of Michigan and Enbridge aimed at safeguarding the Great Lakes. One of the seven provisions in that agreement, reached on November 27, is to “temporarily shut down the operation of Line 5 when adverse weather conditions create sustained waves higher than eight feet in the Straits.”

Wave heights reached more than nine feet in the Straits on Tuesday, the Michigan Agency for Energy said. The eight-foot mark is the point where recovery of spilled oil becomes “extraordinarily hard” according to Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy.

On November 27, Enbridge and the State of Michigan signed the agreement to increase collaboration and coordination between the State and the company to address safety concerns.

The seven key actions, apart from temporary shutdown in adverse weather conditions, include Enbridge evaluating by June 2018 three options for the eventual replacement of the dual pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Other provisions are to use additional safety measures to further mitigate a potential anchor strike from boats in the Straits; evaluate the use of underwater technologies that could help inspect and assess the condition of the coatings; and replace the Line 5 St. Clair River crossing as soon as Enbridge receives the necessary federal and state approvals.

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