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At the crossroads of crude: Clearbrook terminal key component in Enbridge’s plans for Minnesota

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CLEARBROOK, Minn. — Just a few hundred yards southeast of the small town of Clearbrook stands a grouping of huge, white, silo-like structures.

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Silos, though, wouldn’t draw protesters.

This is Enbridge Energy’s Clearbrook Terminal, and guards are posted there to protect the facility from demonstrators and other security risks. This is one of the locations where Enbridge’s mostly buried system of crude oil pipelines runs above ground in Minnesota. One of the pipelines Canada-based Enbridge is on the cusp of building or expanding, the much-touted and much-maligned Line 67, runs through here.

Enbridge said the expansion will help relieve the economy and the United States’ dependence on oil from other continents, but the project is opposed by groups such as the Sierra Club and MN 350 because they perceive it as threatening wildlife habitat and furthering climate change. New lines also are planned to run across Minnesota to accommodate the immense flow of oil from finds in North Dakota and Canada, plans that already have drawn criticism.

Only about 15 people are regularly employed at the 80-acre terminal facility, a great deal of which is run through automation.

However, human activity buzzed around the facility’s eastern fence line, where work on Line 67 continues in anticipation of a ruling by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission this summer on whether the project’s next phase can go through, achieving 800,000 daily barrels of pumping power for Line 67’s piece of the network.

The Clearbrook terminal is an oil pipeline intersection, where the oil in Enbridge pipelines coming from the tar sands fields of Canada and the Bakken field in North Dakota is transferred to the 304-mile MinnCan/Koch pipeline system that leads to refineries in the Twin Cities.

The tanks hold 1.2 million barrels of crude total, and an average of 320,000 barrels per day are pumped south from the Clearbrook Terminal to the beginning of the MinnCan/Koch system.

Despite the safety measures and inspections, the controversy and protests will likely continue at Clearbrook.

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