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What's below the surface?

By Katie Deska
News staff
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02/29/2016 - Weaving under streets, yards, intersections, between miles of water mains, cables and a network of natural gas lines, four interstate hazardous liquid transmission pipelines bisect Oakland County. Of those, two carry crude oil; one carries refined petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and heating oil; and the fourth, ethane.

The companies which operate these potentially hazardous liquid transmission lines running through Oakland County include Enbridge Energy, Sunoco Pipe Line Company and Buckeye Partners. The vast majority of pipelines are gas distributions lines, which typically carry gas composed primarily of methane. Hazardous liquid lines include crude oil, petroleum products and other substances.

Enbridge operates Line 6B, which transmits crude oil through northern Oakland County, including the townships of Addison, Oxford, Brandon, Groveland and Holly. Line 6B continues west through Marshall, Michigan, where, in 2010, a damaged pipe caused the largest inland spill in U.S. history, according to the Michigan Petroleum Pipe Line Task Force.

A second crude oil line in Oakland County, the Marysville-Toledo segment operated by Sunoco Pipeline, runs through the southeast corner of the county, with a route that approximately traverses Troy, Royal Oak, and Southfield. It travels from Marysville, Michigan, near Port Huron, carrying crude oil to Toledo, where it is then distributed to regional refineries.

Sunoco's ethane line, the Mariner West project, is a third hazardous liquid transmission line which goes directly through Oakland County. It stretches from the liquid-rich Marcellus Shale processing and fractionation areas in western Pennsylvania through Ohio and Michigan, en route to Sarnia, Ontario, destined to serve the petrochemical market. Ethane, a hazardous gas compressed into a liquid state for shipping, is used in the manufacturing of many plastics and other goods. The Inkster-Sarnia segment of the Mariner West project snakes through the communities of Bloomfield Township, Birmingham and the greater Rochester area.

Ethane, at standard temperature and pressure, is a colorless, odorless gas, which is isolated on an industrial scale from natural gas and is byproduct from petroleum refining. When exposed to oxygen, it becomes a gas, and at room temperature, it is extremely flammable.

Buckeye Partners operates an 8-inch diameter line in Oakland County, which ships petroleum products for other companies. It runs north along Haggerty Road, between the communities of West Bloomfield and Walled Lake, and approximately through Waterford, Clarkston, Groveland Township, and Ortonville.

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