The Midwest and Minnesota in particular, are becoming a superhighway for crude oil on its way to refineries in Minnesota, in the Midwest, on the Gulf Coast and for export. Because the pipelines are underground, they are invisible to most Minnesotans.
- Enbridge pipelines currently bring 1.8 million barrels a day of primarily toxic tar sands oil across Northern Minnesota from Canada.
- Another Enbridge pipeline brings 100-200,000 barrels per day of oil from North Dakota
- Enbridge has applied for a new pipeline – the “Sandpiper [link to Sandpiper]” – to transport an additional 275,000 barrels per day from North Dakota.
- Minnesota Pipeline Company pipelines bring 345,000 barrels per day of tar sands [link to tar sands oil] and North Dakota oil from Clearbrook, MN to Twin Cities refineries.
There also are many pipelines carrying refined products. Tesoro (North Dakota oil) refined product pipelines are routed along Highway 94 to the Twin Cities. BP has pipelines bringing refined products into Roseville. Kindermorgan has a pipeline crossing southwest Minnesota, which will transport diluent, a mixture of lighter hydrocarbons needed to thin Canadian tar sands oil for transportation in a pipeline.
The Environmental Risks of Pipelines
Many existing pipelines are decades old. In Minnesota some date to 1949 and 1958. They are buried underground and can leak unseen. High pressure and pressure swings weaken pipelines over time. According to a report from the Pipeline Hazardous and Safety Administration, small leaks are not detectable by leak detection systems. In North Dakota, a hole in a pipeline as small as a dime leaked over 800,000 gallons of oil, and was undetected for nearly two weeks. (Photo: Kathy Hollander - Older Enbridge pipeline, northern Minnesota)
High Pressure Lines: When pipeline capacity is increased, the pressure inside the line is increased up to 1,313 psi, which increases the risk of ruptures along the length of the pipeline. Higher flows also mean that spills could be bigger and have greater impact.
Air, water and health impacts after a rupture: In March 2013, America watched news reports of a significant oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas. It is estimated that 5,000 to 7,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil (diluted bitumen) were spilled into a residential neighborhood. Residents were evacuated; homes were ruined. Over 25 toxic chemicals were detected in the air the day after the spill.
A year later, while Arkansas state officials say it is safe to live in Mayflower, residents report that they are still suffering from dizziness, headaches and nausea. Many have moved away; others can’t because their homes won’t sell.
It is estimated that between 2008 and 2012, US pipelines spilled an average of more than 3.1 million gallons of hazardous liquids per year, risking our water supply[link to risks to rivers and drinking water], our health[link to dangers to human health] and our communities.
Learn more about:
- Significant pipeline incidents
- Minnesota pipeline spills [Link to Minnesota Spills]
- Pipeline Development Projects in Minnesota [link to Pipeline Development Projects in Minnesota]
Are the profits of the pipeline companies like Enbridge[link to Enbridge] and TransCanada[link to TransCanada] worth the risk to our health and our communities? We think not. That’s why it’s so important that we TAKE ACTION TODAYto prevent an increase in oil pipeline capacity and new pipelines from being built.