Enbridge completes $20-million Mackinaw City pump station upgrade

Deploying the latest equipment and technology to help maintain the health of Line 5 through Michigan

The pursuit of safety requires vigilance, caution, and innovation.

We’re constantly adapting and harnessing technology at Enbridge in the name of safety—and the upgrade of our Line 5 Mackinaw City pump station, in northern Michigan, is the latest such example.

On July 15, 2016, we completed this upgrade in Mackinaw City, on the south side of Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac, after nearly six years of planning, design and construction involving more than 250 workers.

This $20-million upgrade—one in a series of station upgrades along our Line 5 pipeline route through Michigan—involved the installation of the newest and most advanced piping, valves, traps and instrumentation.

“We’ve been working on this upgrade for nearly six years—from planning to this week’s tie in. We’re excited to see it come to fruition,” says Chris Gardner, project manager for the Mackinaw City pump station upgrade.

This new equipment makes it easier for us to deploy our internal inspection tools, which use ultrasonic and magnetic particle technologies to examine our pipes inch by inch like a mini-MRI machine. Newer technology also reduces the already low risk of service interruption.

Our Line 5 pump station on the north side of the Straits of Mackinac, in St. Ignace, underwent a nearly identical upgrade in 2011. Numerous other Line 5 pump stations in Michigan received similar upgrades in 2012 and 2013, with numerous new remote operated valves, additional pressure transmitters, and pump rebuilds.

“Replacing equipment with newer, better equipment reduces risk and equates to safe, efficient delivery,” says Blake Olson, operations manager for Line 5 in northern Michigan and across the Straits.

Line 5 delivers up to 540,000 barrels a day (bpd) of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids (NGLs), which are refined into propane.

Built in 1953 by the Bechtel Corporation to extraordinary standards, Enbridge’s Line 5 Straits of Mackinac crossing has never experienced a leak in more than six decades of operation, and we’re keeping it that way through:

  • 24/7 monitoring, with remotely controlled isolation valves that would close within three minutes of activation;
  • Regular inspections, using inline tools, divers, and remote operating vehicles (ROVs);
  • Operating the line at less than 25 percent of its maximum design capabilities; and
  • Proactive maintenance, with a robust span management system.

Line 5 meets 65 percent of propane demand in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and 55 percent of propane demand statewide. About 30 percent of the light crude transported by Line 5 stays in the region and is processed by refineries in Detroit and Toledo.

Generally speaking, pump stations—typically spaced every 40 to 60 miles along a pipeline—contain one or more electrically driven pumping units, strategically located to maintain flow within safe operating limits of the pre-tested pipeline.