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Enbridge gets State Department clearance to expand oil sands pipeline

Enbridge Inc. has received a presidential permit to almost double the capacity of a pipeline that links the oil sands region in western Canada with refineries in the U.S. Midwest.

The State Department on Oct. 13 authorized Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge's U.S. unit to boost the capacity of Line 67, which is known as the Alberta Clipper, from approximately 500,000 barrels per day to 888,889 bbl/d. The increase will be accomplished through the addition of new pumping stations and not through new transmission pipeline. Alberta Clipper was originally designed to carry 890,000 bbl/d and scaled to demand when it was completed in 2010.

The permit, signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of State Judith Garber, will allow Enbridge Energy Partners LP to boost capacity of the line between Neche, North Dakota and Superior, Wisconsin, the Canadian pipeline company's largest U.S. hub. Neche is directly across the border from Enbridge's Gretna, Manitoba facility which collects oil shipped on its main lines from its Alberta hubs in Edmonton and Hardisty, among other Canadian points.

The permit lays out several conditions Enbridge must meet in construction of the new facilities. The expansion, like Enbridge's contested Line 3 expansion, is still subject to oversight by local and state regulators. The department issued a draft environmental impact study on the project in February. Alberta Clipper and Line 3 follow a similar route through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"The permittee shall obtain requisite permits from relevant state and local governmental entities, and relevant federal agencies," the permit says. Enbridge is also responsible "for acquiring any right-of-way grants or easements, permits, and other authorizations as may become necessary and appropriate."