Enbridge Line 3 Oil Pipeline

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This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy.

Enbridge Line 3 Oil Pipeline is a major oil pipeline in the Enbridge Pipeline System that conveys petroleum from western Canada to its Superior Terminal in Wisconsin, United States.[1] It carries light, medium, and heavy crude.[2]


The pipeline originates in Edmonton, Alberta, and terminates in Superior, Wisconsin.

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Project Details

  • Operator: Enbridge[1]
  • Current capacity: 760,000 barrels per day
  • Length: 1765 km (1097 mi)
  • Status: Operating
  • Start Year: 1967

Pipeline Replacement Project Location

The U.S. pipeline will be replaced from Neche, North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin. The Canada pipeline will be replaced from Hardisty, Alberta to Gretna, Manitoba.

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Pipeline Replacement Project Details

  • Operator: Enbridge[1]
  • Proposed capacity: 844,000 barrels per day[3]
  • Length: 0 miles
  • Status: Proposed
  • Start Year: 2019


The current Line 3 was built in 1962 and 1963.[4]


According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Line 3 experienced 15 failures since 1990 that resulted in more than 50 barrels of oil spilled during each incident.[4] Corrosion and cracking has resulted in more than 950 excavations since 2000, and the pipeline "has had 10 times as many anomalies per mile as any other pipeline in the Mainline corridor" and is "susceptible to defects."[4]

Line 3 Replacement

The Line 3 Replacement Program will fully replace 1,031 miles (1,660 kilometres) of Line 3 with new pipeline and associated facilities, with an expected placed-in-service date in 2019.[5] The existing Line 3 pipeline will be decommissioned. It is the largest proposed project in Enbridge history.[5]

Since 2010, Line 3 has been operating at 390,000 barrels per day — well short of its 760,000-barrel capacity — because of safety concerns. Enbridge says the replacement line would restore the flow to an average of 760,000 barrels per day, though it would have a capacity of 844,000 barrels.[3]

Enbridge conducted an assessment of the Line 3 pipeline in 2013 that resulted in its decision to propose replacing the pipeline.[6] The replacement program would restore the pipeline, which is operating at only about half its capacity for safety reasons, to its full capacity.[7]

In June of 2019, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said it will not release its water-quality certification for the proposed replacement pipleine on July 1 as previously scheduled. The MPCA said it needs to consider an additional environmental review effectively ordered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals earlier this month. The appellate court earlier reversed the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) approval of the environmental-impact statement (EIS) for Line 3. The court deemed the EIS "inadequate" because it didn't properly address the impact of a potential future oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed.[8]

As of August 2019, the PUC has taken no action since June, apparently waiting on yet another court decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Court is expected to rule by Sept. 3 whether it will hear a petition by pipeline opponents to overturn parts of the appeals court’s ruling that had affirmed the environmental statement. If the Supreme Court accepts the petition, the Line 3 process could be frozen for at least a year, causing lengthy delays for Enbridge’s construction plans. Even if the Supreme Court rejects the petition, fixing the environmental impact statement could take several months. And that means an important regulatory deadline in late October will almost certainly be missed.[7]

Line 3 Replacement Project (U.S.)

Under the U.S. component of the Line 3 Replacement Program, Enbridge is proposing to spend US$2.9 billion on 36-inch replacement pipeline spanning from Neche, North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin.[6]

As of September 2017, Enbridge had obtained permits to construct the pipeline replacement in North Dakota and Wisconsin.[9] Construction began on a 12-mile section of Line 3 replacement in Wisconsin in the Summer of 2017.[10]

A Minnesota Department of Commerce (MDOC) analysis released in September 2017 found that the Line 3 Replacement Project was unnecessary for meeting long-term demand.[3] MDOC energy regulatory division manager Kate O'Connell testified that "The high socioeconomic costs [of the Line 3 Replacement Project] outweigh the minimal benefits to Minnesota..."[3] The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is not expected to issue a final decision on the proposed pipeline until Spring 2018.[7][4][3]

Map Source: Minnesota Department of Commerce Final Environmental Impact Statement

Line 3 Replacement Program (Canada)

Under the Canadian component of the Line 3 Replacement Program, Enbridge is proposing to spend CAN$5.3 billion to replace all remaining segments of its Line 3 pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta and Superior, Wisconsin.[2] The project includes the replacement of existing 34-inch-diameter pipe with 36-inch-diameter pipe from Hardisty to Gretna, Manitoba, and Neche, North Dakota, to Superior.[2]

In November 2016, the Canadian federal government approved the Line 3 Replacement Program.[2] Construction on the Canadian portion of the project began in Summer 2017.[11]


In July 2017, Minnesota Department of Commerce's tribal liaison Danielle Oxendine Molliver resigned from her position in protest of the Line 3 pipeline environmental review process.[12] Molliver said she was told she could only be a greeter and not answer questions about the pipeline's impact on Tribes after Enbridge complained to the Governor's office about her involvement.[12] Currently, the pipeline runs through the Leech Lake and Fod du Lac reservations in Minnesota. While the route of the proposed Line 3 would go around the reservations, it would run through a disputed area that the White Earth band claims is within its reservation, as well as areas "ceded" by Tribes in the 1800s where they maintain hunting and fishing rights.[7]

In August 2017, the Minnesota Department of Commerce published its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).[4] The EIS found that all of the Line 3 replacement project routes would have a "disproportionate and adverse effect on tribal resources and tribal members."[4] At least four of Minnesota's Ojibwe bands submitted comments on the draft EIS opposing the proposed Line 3 replacement project.[7] The final EIS further stated that Tribal members commented that "all of the proposed routes, including either keeping the current Line 3 in place or abandoning it, would add to the negative mental, spiritual, and physical health impacts already disproportionately suffered by American Indian populations."[4]

In August and September 2017, water protectors and other groups of protesters interrupted Line 3 replacement construction in Wisconsin on at least five separate occasions, resulting in at least 11 arrests.[13]

On February 4 of 2019, four climate activists in Blackberry Township, Minnesota closed safety valves on a crude oil pipeline belonging to the Canadian energy corporation Enbridge. This is an escalation of ongoing activism aimed at Enbridge, which is facing stiff resistance to their plan to build a new high capacity crude oil pipeline, Line 3, through Minnesota and across multiple Native American reservations. This marks the second time in just over two years that activists have shut down Enbridge pipelines, citing the urgency of climate change. The four activists broke into a fenced area containing emergency safety valves for Enbridge lines 1, 3 & 4. The activists, who are affiliated with the Catholic Worker movement, are Michele Naar Obed of Duluth, MN, Allyson Polman, Brenna Cussen Anglada, and Daniel Yildirim. The four were taken into custody by Itasca County Sheriffs at around 1:30pm. The three pipelines cross three Native American reservations and hundreds of miles of un-ceded treaty territory. In October of 2018 two activists were acquitted in Clearwater County court for a similar pipeline shut down. Those activists, Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, shut down Enbridge Lines 4 & 67 in a multi-state coordinated action in 2016 that closed down all the tar sands flowing from Canada into the United States. In their criminal trial, the activists set precedence in Minnesota court allowing climate activists to argue that their actions are justifiable due to the necessity of taking action on climate change.[14]

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Enbridge Line 3 Oil Pipeline, Enbridge, accessed September 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Line 3 Replacement Program (Canada), Enbridge, accessed September 2017
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Enbridge's new pipeline across northern Minnesota not needed, state says, Star Tribune, 11 Sep. 2017
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Environmental Impact Statement: Executive Summary, Minnesota Department of Commerce, 17 Aug. 2017
  5. 5.0 5.1 Line 3 Replacement Program, Enbridge, accessed September 2017
  6. 6.0 6.1 Line 3 Replacement Project (U.S.), Enbridge, accessed September 2017
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Mike Hughlett, An oil pipeline approved without controversy in Minnesota? Seems so Star Tribune, August 22, 2019 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "star" defined multiple times with different content
  8. Enbridge's proposed $2.6 billion pipeline hits another snag Star Tribune, June 18, 2019
  9. Enbridge's Line 3 to cost more, profit lower-than-expected, CNBC, 3 Aug. 2017
  10. Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement Underway In Wisconsin, Wisconsin Public Radio, 26 Jul. 2017
  11. Construction starts on Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement from Hardisty to Wisconsin, Edmonton Journal, 3 Aug. 2017
  12. 12.0 12.1 Tribal Liaison in Minnesota Pipeline Review is Sidelined after Oil Company Complains to Governor, The Intercept, 12 Aug. 2017
  13. More Arrests Made At Pipeline Construction Site, KDAL News, 8 Sep. 2017
  14. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Climate Activists Shut Down Enbridge Pipelines in Northern Minnesota Climate Disobedience Center, accessed January 2019

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