$3 for 3 months. Save 90%.
$3 for 3 months. Save 90%.

Report: Line 5 rupture risk low

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — It’s unlikely that Enbridge’s twin pipelines running through the Straits of Mackinac will fail in the coming decades, according to a new state-contracted report released Monday.

The Calgary, Alberta-based Dynamic Risk released its final report detailing the likelihood of a pipeline rupture due to corrosion or other issues and concluded the risk is low and increases negligibly by 2053.

This shows that “time is not a significant factor on the failure probability estimates for the Straits pipelines,” the report said.

The report mostly includes similar information to what Dynamic Risk released in a June draft report and could be considered a blow to environmentalists urging state officials to decommission the 64-year-old twin pipelines. They argued Line 5’s age indicates a higher chance of oil leaking into the Great Lakes.

But environmentalists countered the report’s findings by saying state officials have evidence of enough less-than-candid behavior by Enbridge Energy to begin court proceedings against the Canadian energy company. Last week, state officials questioned the company’s honesty following admissions of multiplying gaps of enamel coating that helps protect the pipeline from corrosion.

“It’s in my mind not much of the way of new information there,” said James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “I think the excuses are starting to fade. Now you’ve got even more information. Clearly none of the information that Enbridge is giving you is anything you can trust. I’m not sure what’s holding the administration back at this point.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder called Enbridge’s admissions “deeply concerning.”

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy called the report a “thorough, deliberate and expert consideration of the safety, feasibility and cost of alternative methods to transport energy to the Great Lakes region.”

“Equally significant, the report reiterates the importance of Line 5 to the region,” Duffy said.

Enbridge’s Line 5 carries about 23 million gallons of light crude oil and natural gas liquids a day through a channel that connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Researchers at the University of Michigan have published spill modeling results that show a rupture could devastate the Great Lakes shorelines.

The Dynamic Risk study concluded that the average length of shoreline that could be contaminated with oil in 360 different computer simulations was between 20 and 25 miles. It could cost more than $200 million to clean up, the report said.

The report also extensively detailed several alternatives to using the existing Line 5. Those include building a new pipeline that does not snake through the Straits of Mackinac, using underground tunnels or trenches to pump oil, using existing pipelines other than Line 5 or transporting it by rail or truck.

Dynamic Risk said using other existing infrastructure is not feasible and suggested that transporting by rail could be the best alternative, if one were chosen.

Enbridge has come under fire in recent months after understating the number of Line 5 sections that were missing enamel coating. Company engineers had known since 2014 about the missing coating but failed to disclose that information to the public because they did not believe it to be a safety concern, the company said in late October.

Officials at the Michigan Agency for Energy and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality are reviewing the report, according to the agencies.

“This independent analysis will assist in the state’s continued evaluation of Line 5,” said Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for the DEQ.