New oil pipeline across Minnesota approved

  • Article by: H.J. CUMMINS
  • Star Tribune
  • November 25, 2008 - 8:26 PM

Minnesota energy regulators gave their approval Tuesday to a new pipeline that will come out of Canada carrying crude oil across northern Minnesota and on to Wisconsin.

The unanimous decision by the five-member Public Utilities Commission followed a pitch from U.S.-based affiliates of Enbridge Inc., that the 1,000-mile pipeline will help supply the north central United States with reliable energy from a friendly neighbor, at a time of volatile petroleum prices and growing demand by a growing population.

The approval came despite arguments from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy that this oil is mined in a process that releases three to five times the pollutants of regular drilling, and that Americans' petroleum consumption is likely to stay constant or even drop amid growing conservation efforts.

The project requires regulatory approvals from several other U.S. agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service, Enbridge spokeswoman Denise Hamsher said. It also faces one more bump within Minnesota, because the pipeline company has yet to come to financial terms with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in order to put a stretch of the pipeline across its land south of Duluth.

If constructed, the line will increase the company's crude capacity out of Canada into the United States by 450,000 barrels per day by 2012, from its current 1.54 million barrels per day, Hamsher said.

More precisely, the project involves two pipelines for affiliates of Enbridge, a Calgary, Canada-based energy distribution company which claims the world's longest crude oil and liquids pipeline system. Both of the new lines are proposed to run along existing Enbridge pipeline right of ways.

One line, the Alberta Clipper, will carry the crude from Canada to Superior, Wis., the Minnesota portion running 285 miles and costing $991 million to build, regulatory filings show. A second line, the Southern Lights, will carry a refinery byproduct back to Canada, the Minnesota portion running 175 miles and costing $306 million to build. It runs from near Duluth to Clearbrook, Minn.

H.J. Cummins • 612-673-4671

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