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Locals updated on Enbridge project

In this file photograph provided by Enbridge, employees inspect a pipeline. Enbridge operates thousands of miles of pipelines throughout North America and the company says operating those pipelines safely is a top priority. Courtesy Enbridge
In this file photograph provided by Enbridge, employees inspect a pipeline. Enbridge operates thousands of miles of pipelines throughout North America and the company says operating those pipelines safely is a top priority. Courtesy Enbridge

Officials of Enbridge Energy Co. offered pre-construction updates Tuesday on its Flanagan South Pipeline Project, which will transport Canadian heavy crude oil across Osage County on its 600-mile course between storage terminals in Illinois to Oklahoma.

During a public meeting at Pawhuska Business Development Center, representatives of the Canadian company discussed their $2.6 billion pipeline project. The Flanagan South line will transport oil-sand crude from Enbridge’s Flanagan terminal in Pontiac, Ill., to the storage hub at Cushing.

Officials said work has been underway since early August along much of the pipeline route. Construction on Oklahoma portion is expected to start “in the next few weeks,” officials said.

“Plans are calling for progress of one mile per day until the project is completed,” Enbridge spokesperson Lara Burhenn said.

The new 36-inch pipeline originates approximately 100 miles southwest of Chicago and extend through 29 U.S. counties in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

After going through an Enbridge pump station in Caney, Kan., the pipeline is to enter Oklahoma at the extreme northwest corner of Washington County. The Flanagan line will then be traveling diagonally across Osage County where it passes through a pump station in Pershing before continuing on into Pawnee County.

Prior to reaching the Payne County terminus in Cushing, the pipeline will go through one more pump station near Mannford. A total of 13 such stations already are located along the four-state route. Plans call for construction of seven additional pump stations, including a second one at the Pershing facility, company officials said.

Most of the Flanagan South line is to be built adjacent to Enbridge’s existing Spearhead Pipeline, a 22-to 24-inch conduit that is also owned by Enbridge. The new pipeline’s course will separate from the 60-year-old line for the furthest distance (nearly four miles) in southern Kansas before the paths are reunited after reaching Oklahoma.

Enbridge spokesperson Katie Lange said approximately 90 miles of the pipeline will be in Oklahoma, with around 40 miles of that being in Osage County. Completion of the project is expected in mid-2014, officials said.

Once the new pipeline is put into operation, the Calgary-based company expects to be capable of transporting 600,000 barrels of the heavy crude per day to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Spearhead line would provide an additional 175,000 bpd capacity, Enbridge officials said.

Tar sands heavy crude oil is derived primarily from formations in western Canada, Montana, North Dakota. Transportation of the diluted bitumin resource has sparked a considerable amount of controversy due to environmental concerns about the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, a 2,000-mile line proposed by the TransCanada company.

Enbridge’s Flanagan South proposal has been the subject of less discussion because — unlike the Keystone XL — it does not involve crossing of the U.S.-Canada border. Company officials say work has already started along approximately the first 200 miles of the pipeline route. The Oklahoma portion of the pipeline project should get under way by October, according to the company. Completion is expected in mid-2014, according to latest projections.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits granted last month have allowed for the start of construction along most of the route for the pipeline route. Federal, state, county and municipal permit processes also have been completed for the crossing of all roads and waterways along the route, said Enbridge officials.

One day before the public meeting in Pawhuska, Enbridge hosted a similar event in Drumright. Company officials said the sessions were scheduled so citizens could meet with Enbridge representatives and learn more about the Flanagan South project. They said the pipeline will provide additional capacity that is needed to bring increased North American crude oil production to refinery hubs in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

It also will provide a long-term, stable and reliable source of energy for the U.S, enhancing the nation’s energy security, according to the company.

“Communities located along the pipeline route will benefit from property taxes over the life of the pipeline,” the Enbridge Energy website states in reference to the Flanagan project.

Osage County Assessor Gail Hedgcoth has said the project should be a source economic benefit to the county. She added that property tax assessments related to the pipeline will be made when construction is completed, she added.

The pipeline project also will provide economic boosts for nearby communities by creating construction and manufacturing jobs, the company said. Construction contracts for the Oklahoma and Kansas portions of the line were awarded to U.S. Pipeline and Westwood Survey. Peak employment for the project is estimated to be 400 to 700 persons, said Enbridge officials, who anticipate 40 to 50 percent of the workforce to come through labor unions.

Approximately 90 workers from the Osage Nation already have been hired for the pipeline project and additional employment is expected to be available after construction gets underway, officials said. Special training was provided by the tribe to prepare nearly 500 persons for the application process.

Enbridge Energy officials stress that the company has been committed to the safe and reliable operation of its pipelines for more than six decades.

“This same commitment will be inherent in the design, installation, and operation of the Flanagan South Pipeline Project,” a company spokesperson said.

The Canadian-based Polaris Institute calculates that 804 spills occurred on Enbridge pipelines between 1999 and 2010. Using data from Enbridge own reports, it claims those spills released approximately 161,475 barrels of crude oil into the environment.

In July 2010, a leaking Enbridge pipeline spilled an estimated 843,444 gallons of tar sands crude oil into a creek leading to the Kalamazoo River in southwest Michigan. Documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have referred to it as “the largest inland oil spill in Midwest history.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has placed ongoing cleanup costs for the Michigan spill at more than $800 million. An recently-released NTSB report on the incident attributed the leak to a faulty seam weld on a section of the 50-year-old pipeline.

Burhenn said the company instituted additional safety precautions following the spill and maintains around-the-clock monitoring of its pipelines in addition to routine physical examinations that now include regular aerial inspections.

Several hundred people attended Tuesday’s meeting in Pawhuska. Nearly all were strongly in favor of the project, citing its positive economic impact. A small contingent from a “Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance Group” maintained a limited protest outside of the meeting facility.

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