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Central Canada fuel security at risk

Just when Ontarians were getting used to the low price of gasoline (82.9 cents in Barry’s Bay to 100.7 cents in Oakville on June 30), a U.S. Judge has sent a shockwave through the supply chain that could see pump prices in Central Canada climb significantly.

Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 4.14.38 PMLast week U.S. Circuit Court Judge, James Jamo, shut down the largest input to Ontario’s fuel sector when he ordered Enbridge’s Line 5 to stop operations by June 26.

Line 5 carries up to 540,000 barrels of light and synthetic crude as well as natural gas liquids to refinery sites in Sarnia where the vast majority of Ontario’s fuel is produced.

Judge Jamo’s decision ruled against the continued operation of Enbridge’s west line and prevented the comapany from restarting its east line.

Judge Jamo is supported by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, who both oppose the pipeline on the grounds that it constitutes a major environmental threat to the Great Lakes and should be shuttered permanently. Enbridge has suggested the move by Michigan is legally unsupportable and is proposing a US$500 million project to replace the line and enclose the segment that runs under the lakes in a tunnel. 

Line 5 delivers petroleum to seven refineries of which four are in Ontario (Imperial, Shell, Suncor). According to Imperial Oil spokesperson Jon Harding, the company’s two sites process 232,000 barrels a day, or about half the output of the Enbridge pipe. He says that a reduction in inputs from the pipeline would quickly impact Ontario motorists.  

“Reducing rates will likely result in shortfalls of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel in our distribution points in southern Ontario. That would happen within approximately a week,” according to Harding.

Line5_Map_Michigan_705xAt issue is the safety of Line 5, a system that was built in 1953. The Enbridge pipe runs along a 1,040-kilometre route through to Wisconsin and Michigan, where it channels under lakes Huron and Michigan for 7.2 kilometres before heading to refineries in Sarnia. It is this underwater section in the Straits of Mackinac that is a point of contention for environmental lobbyists that have been fighting for the closure of the pipeline for years.

Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 4.15.22 PMThis most recent challenge to Line 5 came about following a survey where Enbridge discovered last week that a support anchor had shifted its position under the Strait. Enbridge shut down the operation and notified the state. Michigan followed up by filing for an injunction to shut Line 5 until the state had reviewed all the engineering data. Both sides are expected back in court this week.

OCTANE editor Kelly Gray can be reached at kgray@ensembleiq.com