tar sands oil

Enbridge Energy oil spill
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of controversy over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. But there’s another company working to bring more tar sands oil into the U.S.

Enbridge Energy wants to increase the amount of heavy crude oil crossing the border from the Alberta tar sands into the Great Lakes region.

Lorraine Little is with Enbridge. She says Enbridge wants to move more oil on its pipeline known as the Alberta Clipper. That pipeline runs about a thousand miles from northern Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

“Its purpose is to carry heavy crude oil from the oil sands in Alberta into our Superior terminal where then it can get off on other pipelines and serve refining markets around the Midwest region or other parts of the country,” she says.

Back in November of 2012, Enbridge filed an application with the U.S. State Department. The company wants to raise the capacity of the border segment of the Alberta Clipper pipeline to 800,000 barrels per day (they're currently transporting 450,000 barrels per day).

That permit is still under review.

A section of new pipeline for Enbridge's line 6B.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

OXFORD, Mich. (AP) - A group that opposes expanding an underground oil pipeline in Michigan says two of its members are in custody after locking themselves to a truck belonging to a company involved with the project.

The Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands says the men used bicycle U-locks on Monday to attach themselves by the neck to a truck at a Precision Pipeline storage yard in the Oakland County village of Oxford.

Spokesman Jake McGraw says firefighters cut the men loose after about 2 1/2 hours. He says sheriff's deputies were taking the protesters to jail.

Precision Pipeline is the primary contractor for expansion of the line owned by the Canadian company Enbridge Inc.

A section of the line ruptured in 2010, spilling more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.

epaabuse.com

The two sides of the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline are stepping up their campaigns.

For six years, the Obama administration has been reviewing the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would carry tar sands oil south from the Canadian border to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf / Coast Guard

The Coast Guard says crews didn't find any more oil during the latest search of the Lake Michigan shore following last week's spill at BP's northwestern Indiana refinery.

Last Monday, BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana south of Chicago spilled crude oil into Lake Michigan. The company estimates the spill to be somewhere between 630 and 1,638 gallons. The oil made its way into the lake through a malfunction in the refinery's cooling system. 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Parker Wood / U.S. Coast Guard

This post was updated as we waited for an estimate on how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Now that an estimate has been released, we'll continue to follow this story in other posts.

Update: Thursday, March 27, 4:39 p.m.

BP has revised its estimate of how much oil spilled Monday. It now says 15-39 barrels leaked from the Whiting Refinery. That's about 630-1,638 gallons.

Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas is with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Chicago.

He says a small crew has been removing the oil manually. He says the cleanup efforts are going well.

“That involves either a gloved hand or a shovel or rake or some sort of hand powered tool to remove the oil from the shoreline,” Thomas said.

Thomas says federal agencies are waiting for weather conditions to improve before assessing if there’s any heavy tar sands oil on the lake bottom.

“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that there’s any down there but we want to rule it out because of course we want to make sure the environment’s safe and healthy and clean,” Thomas said.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the spill or how long cleanup will take.

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 7:21 p.m.

BP released a statement about an hour ago saying they are still estimating the amount of oil that was spilled and assessing whether more work will need to be done. From their statement:

Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill. They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.

Monitoring continues in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 4:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne this afternoon about the spill. You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawthorne told us about the history of the Whiting refinery. It's one of the oldest refineries in the country.

"We don't know yet just how much oil was released from the refinery into Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. Some people were suggesting, at least off the record from the company, were suggesting that it was about 10 barrels - 12 barrels, not a lot in relative terms," said Hawthorne.

"And given the amount of pollution that's already going into the lake from that part of northwest Indiana, how much affect it had on the lake, at least in the eyes of environmental regulators is fairly minimal."

Sarah Cwiek/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A company says it has removed piles of petroleum coke from Detroit's riverfront, but will need more time to haul away other materials from storage sites.

The city-imposed deadline for Detroit Bulk Storage to get rid of the petroleum coke is Tuesday.

Spokesman Daniel Cherrin says the company has asked for additional time to remove limestone aggregate and that it may take until early next month to clear it all away.

Bob Warfield, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing, says daily inspections show the petroleum coke was being removed.

EPA workers sample the air near the Enbridge oil spill in Michigan
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency has rejected Enbridge’s request to extend the deadline to cleanup up part of an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.

The EPA ordered Enbridge to do additional dredging in five parts of the Kalamazoo River where there are still significant deposits of crude oil from the 2010 oil spill near Marshall.   A broken pipeline leaked more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil into the river.

Enbridge expects to complete work on four of the five sites well before the EPA’s December deadline.

DETROIT (AP) - Mayor Dave Bing has issued a deadline for the removal of all petroleum coke from the Detroit riverfront on the city's southwest side.

Bing's office says Detroit Bulk Storage was notified Tuesday to move the material by Aug. 27.

The city says the company failed to cart away all the petroleum coke by an Aug. 9 deadline listed last week in an order from Detroit's Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Protesters are expected Sunday afternoon near the Mackinac Bridge. The protest won’t be about what travels over the bridge, but actually beneath it.

Jim Lively is the program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute. He says several environmental groups are worried about an aging oil pipeline that passes through the Mackinac Straits.

“It’s really unclear what the benefit is to the state of Michigan to take this oil that’s coming from either Canada or North Dakota,” says Lively.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 A group of protesters blocked trucks carrying petroleum coke from accessing docks on the Detroit riverfront Monday, as part of several nationwide actions against Canadian tar sands oil.

As one activist put it while issuing an “eviction notice:” “Marathon, Koch Brothers, Matty Moroun…We expect you to leave now.”

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Residents and business owners in Detroit are worried--and outraged--about petroleum coke piles growing on the city’s riverfront.

Here's what the piles look like from Fort Street in Southwest Detroit:

That byproduct of the oil refining process is being dumped in massive piles—now several blocks long and building stories high--along the Detroit River. It’s stored in the open, and wasn’t approved through any permitting process.

Enbridge Energy

The U.S. State Department has extended the public comment period on a proposal to nearly double the amount of crude oil that's shipped in a pipeline along Lake Superior.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 67, also known as the “Alberta Clipper” pipeline, runs from the tar sands region in Canada down to Wisconsin near Lake Superior. In the US, it's more than 300 miles long and three feet in diameter.

Rina Miller / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy has a bit of a bad reputation in Michigan.  In 2010, one of the company’s pipelines burst near Marshall. More than a million gallons of oil have been cleaned up so far from the Kalamazoo River. Last winter there was a small leak near Sterling in the northeast part of the state.

But Enbridge is planning for growth. They’re replacing the pipeline that burst - Line 6B - and they’re building some new sections as well. The company hopes to double the amount of oil they can move from Canada to refineries in Michigan and Ohio (we've previously reported that an Enbridge spokesman said the main product in the new pipeline will be from Alberta's tar sands region. The EPA says the nature of tar sands oil made the Kalamazoo River spill much more difficult to clean up).

Enbridge has been running a public relations campaign to try to improve its image. But some landowners along the pipeline route are not impressed.

Logan Chadde/Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy operates the pipeline that ruptured in Marshall almost two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of thick tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.  The oil spill is still being cleaned up.

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline. It’s known as Line 6B.

Now, the company plans to replace the entire pipeline from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan. 

Enbridge Inc.

Enbridge Inc. has been replacing and repairing parts of line "6B" as part of its maintenance and rehabilitation program. The pipeline was built in 1969.

Now company officials want to replace 200 miles of the oil pipeline in Michigan.

The "6B" pipeline broke open near Marshall, Michigan in 2010 and spilled more that 840,000 gallons of thick tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. There are still pockets of thick oil at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

The 6B pipeline has been operating at reduced capacity since the spill.

Crystal Garcia of the Times Herald of Port Huron reported on Enbridge's plan today.

She writes the existing pipeline is pumping around "243,000 barrels of oil a day with the pressure restrictions." A company spokesman, Joe Martucci, said the new pipeline would produce about 500,000 barrels of oil a day.

If plans are approved, Garcia reports the existing pipeline will be taken offline and remain in place, and the new pipeline will be built about 25 feet from the existing line.

Replacing the pipeline will be done in two phases, Martucci said.

Part of the first phase — which includes two five-mile segments east of pumping stations near Griffith and LaPorte, Ind. and three five-mile segments east of Niles, Mendon and Marshall — already has been approved. The other part of the first phase — a 50-mile segment between Stockbridge and Ortonville — is near approval. Work on the first phase will be done this year, Martucci said...

Phase two includes 210 miles of pipeline from Griffith, Ind. to Marysville that was not replaced during phase one. A preliminary hearing for the phase two proposal will be at 9 a.m. June 6 in Lansing

The Times Herald reports if the plans are approved, most of the construction work would be done in 2013.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Calhoun County Health officials will open up a three mile section of the Kalamazoo River near Marshall Wednesday at 8 a.m. It’s the first time the river has opened to the public since a major oil spill July 26th, 2010. 

It’s just a tiny portion of the 37 total miles of the river that have been closed since the underground Enbridge pipeline ruptured. Crews have recovered more than a million gallons of oil from the river. 

There’s new cleanup work underway along Talmadge Creek near Marshall…near the site of 2010’s Enbridge oil spill.

The area was already the site of a massive cleanup effort. But now… work crews are back. The first round was supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency. This time… the state Department of Environmental Quality is overseeing the work.

Mark DuCharme is with the DEQ. He says the initial EPA-supervised cleanup focused on removing visible oil and sheen from Talmadge Creek.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Workers are still trying to clean up thick tar sands oil that’s settled at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. It’s been one year since more than 840,000 gallons leaked from a broken pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy.  Life for those near the accident site has not returned to normal yet.

“See those clumpies?”

Photo courtesy of the State of Michigan

The Enbridge pipeline that broke and spilled into the Kalamazoo River last summer was carrying raw tar sands oil.

Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Grymala says the company ships both conventional crude, and tar sands oil through its pipelines. She says in recent years they’ve been getting an increasing amount of tar sands oil.

“Because there’s being more produced (sic), and there’s more of a demand for it in the United States.”

This increase in tar sands oil transport worries environmentalists and pipeline safety advocates.

Photo by Suzy Vuljevic

The pipeline break that spilled more than 840,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River last summer is still being cleaned up. It has left some Michigan residents with questions about the safety of sending heavy crude oil through those lines.

Dick Denuyl is a retired school teacher in Marysville. When he bought his home along the St. Clair River, he loved the beautiful setting. And he wasn’t worried about the pipelines running under the water.

From the report "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks"

Update 5:30 p.m.

The NRDC responded to the ECRB statement saying they "stand by the information provided in the report - which is well documented and reviewed." From the NRDC statement:

The lack of transparency from the oil industry is part of the issue here. A clear accounting of the public health and safety issues associated with these products and the infrastructure associated with them is simply not available. The example of Enbridge’s CEO denying tar sands were involved with the Kalamazoo River disaster until pushed by reporters with undeniable evidence is one example of this lack of transparency.

Update 2:55 p.m.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta, Canada, "an agency that regulates the province's energy resources," has issued a response to the report.

They write that the report "contains misleading statements on pipeline safety in Alberta and on the characteristics of diluted bitumen." From ERCB statement:

The report also states that “there are many indications that DilBit is significantly more corrosive to pipeline systems than conventional crude.”  Analysis of pipeline failure statistics in Alberta has not identified any significant differences in failure frequency between pipelines handling conventional crude versus pipelines carrying crude bitumen, crude oil or synthetic crude oil.

1:27 p.m.

This past summer, an oil pipeline in Michigan spilled more than 843,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

The spill is still being cleaned up by Enbridge Energy Partners, the company responsible for the spill.

Now, a new report says the type of oil running through the pipeline could lead to more spills.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

People who live near Detroit’s massive Marathon Oil refinery came out as part of a national protest against a proposed pipeline in the western U.S.


The Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline would transport heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sands. That’s the same type of oil the Detroit plant is being retrofitted to be able to process.