GRIFFITH, Indiana — Enbridge Energy's $300 million project to replace 60 miles of oil pipeline across northern Indiana won't be completed until at least February, months later than planned, due to delays in obtaining needed permits, a company official said.
The Indiana segment is part of a larger project to install a new pipeline that will carry crude oil from Canada to Midwestern refineries. It had been expected to be completed by the end of the year, but project manager Tom Hodge said delays in obtaining all the needed permits had postponed completion of the Indiana portion.
Construction is currently about 80 percent to 90 percent complete, but Hodge said much work remains on the segment that will run through Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties.
An estimated 650 workers have been drilling tunnels beneath roadways, marshland, stores and a Merrillville golf course and burying new sections of steel pipeline that will replace a 45-year-old pipeline between the Indiana-Michigan state line and Enbridge's oil terminal in Griffith, Indiana
Environmental groups have expressed concerns about the project, fearing a breach of the new pipeline would have devastating impacts on nearby Lake Michigan and its watershed, which provides drinking water to millions of people.
More than 800,000 gallons of oil spewed into the Kalamazoo River and a creek in 2010 after a portion of Enbridge's existing pipeline ruptured in southwestern Michigan.
Hodge said the new pipeline is much improved and safer than the existing pipeline, which crews will shut down and seal off. He said the new pipeline is twice as thick as the old one with a half-inch wall that's made of higher-grade steel.
"We want a much better, safer pipeline than exists today. We want to keep the public as safe as possible, and the environment," Hodge told The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/1ff1cJd ).
The Line 6B pipeline, which runs 286 miles between Griffith and Sarnia, Ontario, pumps about 70 percent of the oil that is refined in the Midwest, and most of the oil that is used in the greater Chicago area, Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said.
Once the entire new pipeline is fully in the ground, Enbridge Energy will cut off the flow of oil through the old pipeline.
Within a few days, that oil will start flowing through the new pipeline to Midwestern refineries, including BP's sprawling Whiting, Indiana, refinery that's undergone a $3.8 billion upgrade.
Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com