Pipeline under St. Clair almost done

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Alex Kurial
Local Journalism Initiative

Enbridge’s is on the final phase of the underwater pipeline connection to the United States. 
The gas company had been welding a pipeline that would run deeper underwater than the existing one as part of the repairs to Line 5.
Shell Canada’s property along the LaSalle Line has been the site of the work to piece together numerous 40 foot segments of pipeline, which started in October. All told it added up to a 685 metre segment that has now successfully been pulled from the Canadian side to Michigan across the St. Clair River. The project is estimated to cost around $20 million.
Enbridge senior advisor of community relations Ken Hall says the process was an impressive engineering feat.
“The first milestone was digging the new bore hole underneath the river. We used a horizontal directional drill to blow a hole underneath the river from the American side to the Canadian side. And then we pulled the pipe back through that hole on Wednesday,” Hall says. Following the welding, the pipeline also had to undergo a pressurized water test before being placed.
“River crossings can be challenging, and that’s why it’s a milestone because we did it with no incidents, issues or problems. The pipeline can get stuck when you’re pulling it through the hole, so you’re always concerned about that. But we had no problems at all, so we’re all very happy.”
Next up for Enbridge is connecting this segment of pipe to their facility on Plank Rd. “What we’ll do is tie in valves on each side of the river, and connect it to the pipe that goes into Michigan and the pipe that comes from the river up to our terminal,” Hall says.
He expects this final phase of the pipeline connection project to be completed around the end of June. 
The existing underwater pipe remains in place for the time being. Serving as the oil supplier for refineries in the area, Enbridge will need to schedule a temporary outage (lasting around 72 hours) to complete the connection.  
Hall says COVID safety regulations brought extra challenges, but the project went off safely with nobody getting sick. “We did all the work with social distancing, which is challenging when you’re building something. We’re really happy with the safety that’s been applied to this project, in what are obviously very abnormal conditions for everyone. Being able to do the work with that extra challenge, we’re really proud of the accomplishments so far.”