Topsoil stripping on a new pipeline began this week in La Salle County and will move to Grundy County shortly, says Enbridge spokesman Dave Henderson.
“We’ll begin noticing this in Grundy County pretty soon,” said Henderson, of West Dundee, referring to the 20-inch, 1,600-mile pipeline to transport diluent from Manhattan in Will County to Western Canada. “We’re starting in Eastern La Salle County, around the Ransom area.”
Diluent is a thinner used to decrease the viscosity of fluids, such as crude oil, which is too heavy, or dense, to otherwise flow from one point to another. Without diluent, transportation of high viscosity fluids might not be economically feasible, especially at low temperatures.
Paint and nail polish thinners are examples of diluents used to improve the consistency and applicability of the products to which they are added.
Crews with Enbridge Energy Company of West Dundee have finished clearing brush and trees at some road crossings in eastern La Salle County, and are now bringing in heavy equipment to work on the project in that location.
“Up to now, we’ve had surveyors going from that part of La Salle County to Manhattan, followed by the brush-clearing crew,” Henderson noted. “Then the heavy equipment will be brought in to strip the soil and protect the topsoil, after which other crews will string out the pipeline along the route.”
Most construction on the pipeline will probably be finished in November, and on the terminal in Manhattan by early spring of next year. The new diluent pipeline will go into operation the middle of 2010.
The Southern Lights Pipeline Project, as the endeavor is known, is following Enbridge’s recently completed 42-inch crude oil pipeline from Alberta in Western Canada to refineries in this area, including three in Will County.
Oil is already moving in the 42-inch line, which enters central La Salle County from the north, then continues east of Ottawa across the Illinois River and Brookfield Township to just west of Ransom in Allen Township.
The 20-inch diluent line was constructed at the same time along the 42-inch line, but stopped at Ransom, whereas the crude oil line continued south toward Pontiac, where it connected with another pipeline into Will County and Chicago.
Which leaves 46 miles of 20-inch pipeline still to construct from Ransom to Manhattan.
Enbridge is building a terminal in Manhattan, which consists of the initiating pumping station for the pipeline and two receiving tanks with a holding capacity of 250,000 barrels each.
Construction on the pipeline itself will begin in Manhattan and end in Ransom, entering Grundy County north of Coal City and Braidwood, and exiting on the west, just south of Ransom.
At the same time, Enbridge is completing another part of the 20-inch pipeline that extends from north of Superior, Wis., to Clearbrook, MInn., a 188-mile segment.
“When we finish the 45-mile segment here, and the terminal in Manhattan, and the 188-mile segment, we will then be able to hook that segment up with the existing pipeline,” said Henderson. “Forming a 1,600-mile continuous pipeline that originates in Manhattan and ends in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.”
About 500 workers are to be involved in the 46-mile Manhattan-to-Ransom project, which Henderson noted is a boost to the local economy.
Area refineries currently obtain the majority of their crude oil from the Enbridge Pipeline system. Henderson said the refineries are looking for increased supplies of crude oil from Canada.
They view Canada as a more reliable, secure, and economical source of crude oil than Venezuela, the Middle East, and Nigeria, all in unstable parts of the world.
“There’s increasing demand and competition to get crude oil,” Henderson noted.
“In this country, production has gone down, and we’re importing about 70 percent of our oil. Canada is the largest exporter of crude oil into the United States currently, and also the largest trading partner the U.S. has, and a good one.”