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Bitumen export pipeline through Hamilton

Sep 07, 2015

Hamilton may be about to become another major flashpoint for the tar sands pipeline battles that are rocking North America. The company behind Line 9 and the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline across northern BC is now proposing to expand another local pipe that runs from Hamilton into New York State. Enbridge Inc is scheduled to present to city council this fall along with an opposing citizen group.

The long and controversial battle seems nearly completed over Enbridge plans to increase volumes and ship bitumen in its existing Line 9 pipe that passes through Hamilton on its way across southern Ontario from Sarnia to Montreal. Some testing is still required – and resulted in another occupation last week – but the company expects to begin shipments early next year.

However, there is virtually no refining capacity available for bitumen at the end of Line 9 so there have been expectations the company might ship it south through Quebec along an existing pipeline to Portland, Maine. Now another option is emerging.

Enbridge already has a pipe to the United States that starts at its Westover terminal in rural Hamilton and the company is proposing to replace it with a much larger one.  Their Line 10 is a twelve inch pipe built in 1962 and running 143 km from Hamilton, Ontario to West Seneca, New York. The company wants to replace 35 kilometres with a 20 inch pipe – all inside the borders of the City of Hamilton – from Westover to near the intersection of Nebo Road and Airport Road.

The Line 10 project is being described by Enbridge as the first leg of “a phased segment replacement program that will modernize the line”. Their project website says “replacement of other segments over the subsequent several years is expected to be the optimal pipeline management approach” and it indicates that expanding the shipping capacity of Line 10 is a key objective.

“Line 10 currently operates under a pressure restriction limiting its average annual capacity to 63,500 barrels per day. The Line 10 Westover Segment Replacement Project is part of Enbridge’s ongoing pipeline maintenance regimen, and will improve system safety and reliability while also restoring pipeline capacity.”

A twenty inch pipe would nearly triple that capacity to over 200,000 barrels per day. The pipe currently feeds a refinery that only has a capacity of 70,000 barrels a day, but it’s unclear where the newly expanded flows would go or whether this project would carry bitumen from Line 9 to the US across the border near Fort Erie – issues not discussed on the project website.

The new pipe from Westover to Nebo roads generally would be laid beside the existing one (which the company says will be decommissioned but not removed). But in three locations there are reroutes in the plans to avoid golf courses and take the pipeline through foodlands instead. The avoided golf courses are Beverley, Knollwood and Southern Pines.

The pipe runs parallel to and just west of Highway 52 before turning south between Wilson Street and Book Road and generally following the Highway 6 extension past the airport and then to Nebo Road. It is also parallel to the company’s Line 11 pipe until Nebo where the latter heads down to the Exxon Mobil refinery near Nanticoke.

Line 10 continues south east through Smithville and includes a double crossing of the Niagara River on either side of Grand Island. It crosses tributaries of the Welland River upstream of the Binbrook Conservation Area, and the Welland itself near Highway 406.

The tentative schedule posted by Enbridge shows “pre-application consultation” including open houses and “one-on-one meetings” taking place this year followed by an application to the National Energy Board in December with construction anticipated for 2017.

The company has registered to speak to councillors this fall about its Line 10 plans, but the date hasn’t been finalized. Subsequently, the Hamilton 350 Committee has obtained permission to speak at the same meeting.

Last year Enbridge struck a deal with United Refining to pay half the $270 million cost of the Line 10 changes over the five-six year construction period. The agreement also gives United an option to purchase the entire line once the changes are made. 

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