MERRILLVILLE | An estimated 500 employees of Enbridge Energy Partners LP would swarm into Hobart if the company's new Line 6B oil pipeline ever started leaking into the Deep River.
Nearby residents would be evacuated. Roads would be closed off. An operator in Edmonton, Canada, would remotely shut down a valve right away if the pressure suddenly dropped.
Enbridge employees would set up floating barriers to stop the oil from reaching Lake George, test the benzene levels and deploy skimmer machines to clear the water of contamination. They would lay out absorbent booms at several points north along the watershed, to prevent any oil from reaching Lake Michigan.
The Houston-based company met with emergency responders, property owners and environmental groups Wednesday to discuss what it would do to protect the public and the environment if its new pipeline were ruptured. Enbridge is investing $1.5 billion to replace a 44-year-old pipeline that runs between Canada and Griffith, carrying crude oil to Midwestern refineries.
Crews began work Wednesday on staking the future path of Line 6B through LaPorte and St. Joseph counties, spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said. The pipeline has been under construction in Michigan but is still awaiting final regulatory approval in Indiana. The line will cross 60 miles through Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties.
BP's Whiting Refinery and other midwestern refineries have demanded more crude oil. The new 36-inch-wide pipe will increase the amount of oil carried through the Line 6B from about 280,000 barrels per day to 500,000 barrels per day when it is online by the end of the year. That will increase to 570,000 barrels per day in 2016, and eventually could reach 800,000 barrels per day, Smith said.
Enbridge is replacing Line 6B after it broke near Marshall, Mich., and spilled oil into the Kalamazoo River system in 2010.
Major projects manager Mark Curwin said the company has since adopted new safety procedures and is confident it could prevent a worst-case scenario oil leak from reaching Lake George. The 180 area employees have completed 11,000 hours of safety training since the Michigan spill.
"Marshall was a seminal event in this organization's history," Curwin said. "We have spent much time and effort to improve not only emergency response but (also) leak detection, our control center procedures, everything. We have scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed our organization."
Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes, said Enbridge appeared to have done its due diligence and come up with a robust emergency plan. She asked the company to learn from the Michigan spill, such as by being able to provide emergency responders with a detailed list of the chemicals in any leak.