Does Michigan really need Line 5?

Who uses Line 5? If you live in Michigan, you do.

The products moved on Line 5 fuel Michigan’s cars, trucks and planes. They heat thousands of homes. They help farmers bring high-quality food to dinner tables. And they become the building blocks of more than 6,000 manufactured items we use every day.

What would happen if Line 5 were shut down?

Idling Line 5, even temporarily, would have immediate and severe consequences on the economies of Michigan and Ohio.

A Line 5 shutdown would mean a Michigan propane shortage of 756,000 US gallons a day—or 55% of the current amount supplied by Enbridge. Among the 50 states, Michigan has the highest rate of residential propane consumption in the country, with about 315,000 Michigan homes currently relying on propane.

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.

A Line 5 shutdown would also cause a shortfall of 14.7 million gallons of gas, diesel and jet fuel a day—or 45% of the current Enbridge supply for refineries in Michigan, Ohio and the region.

According to PBF Energy, which operates one of two refineries in Toledo:

  • A Line 5 shutdown would put Ohio refineries at risk. The closure of one of those refineries could result in the loss of $5.4 billion in annual economic output to Ohio and southeast Michigan, and the loss of thousands of direct and contracted skilled trades jobs.
  • A Line 5 shutdown would compromise crude supply to 10 refineries in the region to varying degrees, directly affecting fuel prices.
  • There are no viable options for replacing the volume of light crude delivered by Line 5, with rail able to provide less than 10% of that volume.
  • A Line 5 shutdown puts at least 15% of northwest Ohio’s fuel supply at risk, as well as more than half of the jet fuel supplies for the Detroit Metro Airport.

Line 5 can be replaced with other means of transportation, right?

To do the same job as Line 5, and move those 540,000 barrels of light oil and NGLs each day, it would take:

  • About 2,100 tanker trucks a day—that’s 90 trucks an hour—leaving Superior and heading east across Michigan’s roads
  • About 800 rail cars a day travelling on Michigan rails.

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

Sure, that’s what you’re telling me. What about an independent view of Line 5’s relative importance?

The Michigan Agency for Energy (MI Energy), which is now part of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), 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.”

What about the pass-through-from-Canada-to-Canada argument?

Idling Line 5, even temporarily, would lead to a serious disruption of the energy market in Michigan. 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 (over its lifetime, Line 5 has delivered more than 80 million barrels of Michigan-produced light crude to market)
  • Deliveries of crude oil are made to Marysville, where they’re taken to regional refineries—one in Detroit, two in Toledo—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