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Posted: 07/16/14

PREPARING PIPES. Above, Enbridge Energy crews work to lower a section of the Line 6B pipeline into a 4-foot ditch in Richmond Township on July 9. At right, workers checked the pipe for any trouble spots in its coating.

(Observer photos by Chris Gray)

Enbridge closer to 6B
replacement completion

Observer Staff Writer
      Enbridge crews were out on July 9, using sidebooms -- crane-like vehicles -- to maneuver a 36-inch pipeline into a muddy trench in Richmond Township.
       The scene was repeated earlier this spring in Bruce Township, where Enbridge representatives say the majority of the work has been completed and is expected to wrap up this fall.
       Enbridge is in phase two of its line 6B project, which will replace 285 miles of crude oil pipeline. Phase two will install 210 miles of crude oil pipeline in Indiana and Michigan.
       The east-west pipeline snakes through multiple counties, including Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair. In Bruce Township, the pipeline starts at Dequindre and runs north of the Ford Proving Ground next to 36 Mile Road. It then veers north for half a mile past Hipp Road, then travels three miles north of Ebeling Road before veering north two miles south of Reid Road.
       The latest work in Bruce Township was a creek crossing from Secord Lake to Fisher Lake by the Bell Farm. The Department of Environmental Quality required the company to finish its work once it started, meaning they had to work into the night on Friday past the normal cut-off time of 7 p.m.
       Drivers had to figure out alternate routes on July 12 when Dequindre Road was closed at 36 Mile Road on July 12 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
       Residents in the area won't see such disruptions for much longer. Tom Hodge, Enbridge project director, said the Bruce and Armada township portions are more than halfway done. He said a majority of the pipeline has been placed in the ground and crews are working to join the sections.
       "They're ditching, they're lowering that pipe in the ground and tying the sections together," he said. "There are several more months of activity to go, but the bulk of it is near completion."
       He said once the pipe is in place, restoration of the disturbed land will be done by mid-October. Restoration efforts include removing leftover debris, putting back topsoil, repairing fences, mulching and seeding. Restoration crews are expected to advance about three quarters of a mile a day.
       Enbridge requires a 60-foot easement, and another 40 feet during the construction process as a temporary right-of-way. Due to this, the company had to remove trees along 36 Mile Road. When residents protested the actions, the company agreed to save 12 large, mature trees and will replace 150 other trees.
       Hodge said there have been other portions along the pipeline, such as in Brandon Township in Oakland County, that had similar concerns from residents about trees.
       "Enbridge is very eco-minded in some fashions, we have a neutral footprint initiative," he said. "If we remove an acre of trees, we plant an acre of trees somewhere to replace that."
       The pipeline is buried at an average of 4 feet below the surface, meaning the land can still be used for growing crops, though structures cannot be built on it.
       The old pipeline will be cleaned, capped and filled with nitrogen, an inert gas, to help monitor its integrity despite no future plans to reuse it.
       Hodge said keeping it in place prevents delays to refineries that would otherwise go out of business while the new pipeline is installed.
       Keeping the pipe in the ground also saves residents from additional construction. Hodge said if Enbridge were to remove the old pipe, the company would have to return in order to remove it.
       "We'd have to come back next year and do this whole construction project all over again," he said. "The inconvenience and disruption would be twice as much."
       The new pipeline is expected to be tested on Sept. 1 and in service by Oct. 1.
Safety measures

       A black spot on the company's record occurred in July 25, 2010 when the old 6B line burst in Marshall, spilling 877,000 gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek, which flows into the Kalamazoo River.
       Jason Manshum, spokesman for Enbridge, said the main cause was the exterior coating, which was a tape coating put on the pipe when it was installed. The tape was compromised and water got onto the pipe, eventually causing fractures that led to a rupture.
       "Our record is very good, but clearly good is not enough," Manshum said.
       Manshum said since the Kalamazoo incident, Enbridge has invested $4.4 billion in improvements to people, processes and technology to prevent another spill. Among the changes is the use of a factory-installed fusion-bonded epoxy to protect the pipe and a state-of-the-art monitoring station.
       "The technology is far advanced in 2013-14 that we've been working on with this project versus the 1960s" when the old pipe was installed, he said.
       In addition to the coating, the new pipe has a thicker wall, high-grade steel and enhanced leak detection along the line. The line is inspected on site, and any suspicious spots are patched up before the pipe is buried.
       "We have a goal at Enbridge that is a path to zero, meaning zero incidents," Manshum said.
       Once finished, the pipeline will transfer 500,000 barrels of oil per day, nearly double the current capacity of 240,000.

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