Backgrounder on Calumet's plan to ship oil on the Great Lakes

The Sarnia Observer reports on the Calumet Specialty Products plan to ship oil on the Great Lakes. From that article we have selected the quoted excerpts, and from earlier news reports we have gleaned additional bullet points, to develop a fuller picture of what is happening and what we can do to stop this proposal.

What is the proposal?

"Calumet Specialty Products, an Indiana-based company, has been looking into building and operating a crude oil loading dock on Lake Superior, near its refinery at Superior, Wisconsin, and is seeking state approvals. The terminal would load freighters with heavy oil from Western Canada, as well as light Bakken crude from the U.S., to ship to refineries on the Great Lakes."

  • The Calumet refinery in Superior can process 45,000 barrels per day.
  • The facility would be able to load one oil tanker or barge every four days.
  • A tanker would hold about 77,000 barrels of crude oil, while a 400-foot-long barge would hold about 110,000 barrels.
  • Thirteen million barrels of crude oil a year could be shipped on the Great Lakes.
  • The Line 67 pipeline expansion is critical to this whole plan.

What is the timeline?

"The company has said it would like to have the project operating by the 2015 shipping season."

  • A decision on the dock is expected on December 26, 2013.
  • Repairs on the dock could begin in May or June 2014.
  • Calumet would conduct dredging, dock, pipeline and storage construction in 2014 and be ready to ship oil by March 2015.

What are the risks?

"A report released this year by the U.S.-based Alliance for the Great Lakes says neither the Great Lakes shipping fleet, nor its ports, were designed to ship oil sands bitumen. It also cites gaps in the region’s oil-spill prevention and response policies."

Who is concerned?

"Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says, 'When you look at what happened on the Gulf coast, that was a tragedy. But, the Great Lakes would even be worse because it’s drinking water. It certainly has flagged our interest in making sure that if it’s done, that it be done to the highest standard possible. We’re just going to watch and see where this issue goes.'"

"The St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a Chicago-based group representing municipalities on the waterway, joined Bradley in raising concerns about the capacity of Canadian and U.S. agencies to deal with a major spill on the lakes after a dredge and tugboat sank in southern Lake Huron in 2012, leaking an estimated 2,200 litres of diesel oil."

Other concerned groups include:

  • Minnesota Environmental Partnership
  • The Alliance for the Great Lakes
  • Bayfield, Wisconsin mayor Larry MacDonanld
  • Christopher LaForge, South Shore Area North Guard
  • local residents in Superior, Wisconsin

What actions have been taken?

"'We ended up contacting both Washington and Ottawa, and they were reassuring us they could,' Bradley said."

  • The Council of Canadians has written the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requesting that it not approve the construction of the dock facility for these shipments.
  • We have also worked to bring greater public attention to this issue.
  • Local residents have mobilized to speak out against the proposal at a public consultation in Superior, Wisconsin.

Who will make decisions on this?

  • The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will decide on the dock facility proposal.
  • Calumet officials have said shipping oil on the Great Lakes would require Coast Guard approval.
  • 'Federal agencies' would need to approve the shipments.
  • The Bad River Band of Lake Superior and other communities would need to give their free, prior and informed consent.

For numerous blogs on this proposal, please click here.