What will happen to Line 3 if it is not replaced?
If Line 3 is not replaced, the existing pipeline, originally built in the 1960s, will still continue to operate. Right now, Line 3 only carries about half of the amount of oil it was originally designed to transport. At the same time, oil production in North Dakota and Canada continues to increase, putting pressure on the system we use to get oil to market.
If Line 3 is not replaced, continued operation of the existing pipeline will require thousands of preventative maintenance digs to keep it running safely. This will do nothing to reduce the quantity of oil that is being transported less efficiently and less safely by rail.
These integrity digs are precautions to identify and examine any potential needed repairs; Enbridge.com explains how integrity digs work:
Enbridge’s regular monitoring and inspection program alerts us to pipeline features that may require a visual inspection to determine if a repair or other action is required. Features that have been known to require a repair in the past include third-party excavation damage, corrosion (a chemical reaction between the environment and the pipeline steel that reduces the pipe wall thickness), and cracking or denting. A preventative maintenance dig is the method we use to make the visual inspection. Each dig involves excavating a section of buried pipe such that we can carefully clean and examine it. If we find a defect, we repair it, recoat and re-bury the pipe. In some cases, we cut out old sections of pipe so we can weld in new pipe. A preventative maintenance dig can take from two days to two weeks, depending on the nature of the feature and the results of the visual inspection.
Enbridge has estimated that over the next 15 years, Line 3 would require as many as 6,000 of these integrity digs and other repairs along the line. While these digs are important, they can cause disruption to landowners and communities along the route.
Reduced pipeline capacity today has resulted in more crude oil being shipped by trains. If Line 3 is not replaced, with the current Line 3 operating at only half capacity, the oil that could have been transported at full capacity will continue to be transported by rail instead.
The existing Line 3 can be operating safely, but with limited capacity and significant maintenance, the best way forward is to make a safe pipeline even safer by replacing Line 3.