Line 5 and the Great Lakes Tunnel: Fact vs. fiction

An abundance of misinformation currently surrounds Enbridge’s energy infrastructure in Michigan, targeting both our Great Lakes Tunnel Project and our current Line 5 pipeline crossing at the Straits of Mackinac.

See below for the fiction—and the facts—on Line 5 and the tunnel.


FICTION: Line 5 is just a pass-through from Western Canada to Eastern Canada.

FACT: Line 5 is a critical source of 540,000 barrels per day of propane and crude oil supply for Michigan and surrounding areas, and its shutdown would lead to a serious disruption of the energy market.

Line 5 serves an estimated 55% of the state’s propane needs, including approximately 65% of the propane used in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan, for which no viable alternatives exist.

Line 5 also feeds refineries in Detroit and Toledo with the building blocks for more than 6,000 manufactured items used by consumers every day. These refineries served by Line 5 also supply a large percentage of the aviation fuel at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport.

Along the Line 5 right-of-way:

  • Deliveries of NGLs are made in Rapid River, where they’re refined into propane.
  • Injections of Michigan-produced crude oil are made at Lewiston.
  • Deliveries of crude oil are made to Marysville, where they’re taken to regional refineries that produce gas, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products.
  • NGLs are refined into propane in Sarnia, Canada, and returned directly to Michigan for consumption and storage.
  • Crude oil is delivered to other pipelines feeding the United Refining Company’s refinery in Warren, PA.


FICTION: Enbridge is exaggerating the effect that a Line 5 closure would have on Michigan and the region.

FACT: The Michigan Agency for Energy (MI Energy), which is now part of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), warned about this possibility in 2018.

MI Energy made a Line 5 Market Impacts/Alternatives analysis presentation in August 2018 to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (MPSAB).

As part of its analysis (Slides 144 through 153 on the link above), MI Energy reported:

  • “A significant percentage (as much as 75%) of the propane available in the Lower Peninsula is derived from NGL that is shipped via Line 5 to Sarnia and returned to Michigan . . . Disruption to the delivery of NGL and production of propane in Sarnia would have immediate and serious impacts to Michigan and the region.
  • “Line 5 also has a regional impact on market prices. Even if Michigan had no direct use for Line 5 (i.e. it was a total pass through from Wisconsin to Ontario), the loss of Line 5 would cause crude and propane supply shortages elsewhere. Those shortages would raise demand for crude and refined products used in Michigan, which drives up prices in Michigan and the region.”
  • “Additionally, if for whatever reason Line 5 and the products it transports were suddenly unavailable, there would be consequences to our energy security, likely resulting in a reduction in our resiliency and our ability to withstand future energy supply disruptions or market volatility.”


FICTION: Enbridge has no intention of building a tunnel at the Straits.

FACT: Enbridge voluntarily signed a series of three agreements with the State of Michigan, culminating in a commitment to build the tunnel to house a replacement segment of Line 5 at the Straits. The validity of these agreements has been affirmed through a Court of Claims decision.

Enbridge spent $40 million in 2019 on a robust geotechnical investigation program and other pre-design engineering work to help determine design of the tunnel.

And our President and CEO Al Monaco told the Canada-United States Business Association (CUSBA) on Oct. 17, 2019: “We will replace the pipelines on the bottom of the Straits, and we will do this as quickly and as safely as possible.”


FICTION: There are alternatives, other than pipelines, for moving the energy currently transported on Line 5.

FACT: Line 5 moves up to 540,000 barrels per day (bpd) of light oil and natural gas liquids (NGL). It would take an estimated 2,100 trucks heading east every day from Superior, and travelling across Michigan, to do the same job—or the equivalent of 90 trucks an hour leaving our Superior Terminal.

Similarly, it would take 800 rail cars a day to transport the equivalent amount of product.

Current infrastructure does not exist to support the necessary truck or rail traffic to fill the job currently done by Line 5.


FICTION: Enbridge will not use Michigan labor on the tunnel project.

FACT: During the construction stage of this $500-million project, expected to begin in 2021, it’s estimated that between 1.8 million and 2 million hours of labor will be required—with an estimated average workforce of 200 to 255, an estimated peak workforce of 300 to 325, and estimated yearly wages ranging from $60,000 to $200,000.

As our President and CEO Al Monaco told CUSBA in October 2019: “We are committed to continuing to use Michigan labor on the tunnel project, on the pipeline replacement segments, and on the ongoing maintenance of our pipelines throughout the state.”


FICTION: Other Enbridge pipelines have the capacity to carry the products currently moved on Line 5.

FACT: Without Line 5, regional refineries would lose more than 450,000 barrels per day (bpd)—about 45%—of their current demand.

Total demand for crude oil and NGLs on Line 5 and Line 78, which travels across southern Michigan, is 970,000 bpd. The total combined capacity on Line 5 and Line 78 is 1,042,000 bpd, with Line 78 possessing an ultimate capacity of 500,000 bpd.


FICTION: Prices at the pump wouldn’t change that much without Line 5.

FACT: Without Line 5, Michigan and the region would have immediate shortages of transportation fuels and propane.

Michigan uses about 15.75 million gallons of refined petroleum products every day. Detroit’s refining capacity meets only 25% of this demand, which means that Michigan depends on importing 11+ million gallons of petroleum products daily.

Also, more than half of all aviation fuel consumed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport is refined in Toledo from Line 5 crude. If Line 5 shuts down, so will the refinery—causing airport disruption, not to mention lost jobs.


FICTION: Enbridge provides no benefits to local communities.

FACT: In 2019, Enbridge paid more than $66.7 million in property taxes across Michigan for our pipelines and related facilities—revenue that can be used for schools, infrastructure (roads and bridges), health and wellness, recreation, transportation and other services that help strengthen the fabric of the community.

And speaking of community, Enbridge invested nearly $700,000 in community-strengthening initiatives across Michigan through grants to numerous community organizations and not-for-profit agencies in the state.

Meanwhile, our ongoing operations and planned projects also continue to stimulate local and regional economies—with Enbridge procurement dollars creating indirect employment, support to local businesses, and the establishment of economic spinoffs. In 2019:

  • Enbridge’s capital expenditures in Michigan (on such items as pipe steel, equipment purchases and replacement, system integrity-related investments, and capital leases) exceeded $52.3 million.
  • Enbridge’s operating and administrative expenditures in Michigan (such as maintenance costs, equipment leases, power consumption, and field personnel salaries and wages) exceeded $117.2 million.