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Enbridge testifies that replacement is needed for Line 3 pipeline

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World Pipelines,

As hearings on Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline open, an official testified yesterday that the company's ageing Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota is increasingly subject to corrosion and cracking, and that its maintenance needs are expected to grow rapidly unless the company is allowed to replace it.

The testimony launched a 12 day evidentiary hearing before Administrative Law Judge Ann O'Reilly. It will give officially recognised parties on both sides a chance to question the opposing side's witnesses. All 60 witnesses scheduled to testify, ranging from Enbridge officials to representatives of environmental, tribal, labour and oil industry groups, have filed written testimony earlier, so the focus is on cross examination.

Enbridge officials will try to persuade O'Reilly to recommend the state Public Utilities Commission grant a certificate of need for the project. Such recommendations can carry a lot of weight in Minnesota's regulatory proceedings, but the PUC is an independent body that will make its own decision, expected in April 2018.

Line 3 carries crude oil from Alberta through North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge's terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

Enbridge wants to replace 282 miles of the 1960s era pipeline in Minnesota with a new 337 mile pipeline on a partially different route that would take it through the Mississippi River headwaters region and areas where Native American tribes still hold treaty rights. Construction is already underway in Canada and Wisconsin.


Leadoff witness Laura Kennett, supervisor of pipeline asset integrity projects for Calgary, Alberta based Enbridge, testified that most of the current Line 3 is coated with polyethylene tape, "similar to how tape is wrapped on a hockey stick." But she said the tape is coming loose, leaving the pipeline increasingly vulnerable to corrosion and stress cracking. She also said the welding method used back then also makes it more susceptible to cracking.

Enbridge has projected that it would need to excavate segments of the current pipeline for checks and repairs around 7000 times in the next 15 years, she said. But a new Line 3 would use state-of-the-art epoxy coating, modern welding methods and thicker, stronger steel, she said.

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