Oct. 03–CASS LAKE — Minnesota is an arterial state for Enbridge.
Canada is a leading oil exporter, and the Calgary-based energy company pumps about 2.8 million barrels of oil–about 1.2 billion gallons–each day, most of which travels through seven pipelines in the state. That’s at least partly why Enbridge staff and the Cass Lake Fire Department practiced on Wednesday what they might do if one of those pipelines leaked or broke.
That meant deploying “booms” into the water near the Knutson Dam Campground to attempt to handle a simulated leak. The long yellow booms look vaguely like lane lines for a pool, and they’re designed to divert spilled oil toward a “skimmer,” from which it would be pumped into a waiting tanker truck.
Enbridge staff estimated it would take about 30 minutes for them and contracted staff to get to the scene of a leak, and another 30-40 minutes to deploy the booms. An Enbridge control center in Edmonton, Alta., monitors the company’s pipelines and can alert staff if, say, the pressure on a given line drops, which can indicate a leak.
The booms are also designed to keep oil from entering, say, the mouth of a stream, which is why fire department staffers from Cass Lake practiced deploying them for that purpose. It was their first time doing that type of training, Benjamin Cameron, Sr., the fire department’s chief administrator, said. The Enbridge and Cass Lake crews had mostly wrapped up their drills before lunchtime.
“There has been occurrences in the past where we’ve had leaks, but it is quite rare,” said Trent Wetmore, who directs Enbridge’s Midwest region. Company workers can recover “very close” to 100 percent of spilled oil that doesn’t evaporate, he said.
Enbridge is currently working to replace the Line 3 pipeline, which will cross about 340 miles of northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis. The current line Line 3 runs through Bemidji. The move to replace the pipeline has met with opposition from various environmental groups and Native Americans, citing concerns about potential pipeline spills and leaks.
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