Detroit Metro Access – Frequently Asked Questions – Updated 3/15/2016


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Updated March 15, 2016

What is the Detroit Metro Access Pipeline project?

The project will include the construction of a 35-m ile interconnecting sixteen (16) inch diameter pipeline between Wolverine’s pipeline stations in Freedom Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan and the City of Romulus, Wayne County, Michigan. Wolverine expects to use its existing easements on a significant portion of the pipeline route. It will utilize available capacity on Wolverine’s existing pipeline system, including pipelines from Blackman Township, Jackson County, Michigan to Freedom Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan and from the City of Romulus to the City of Woodhaven, Michigan in southwest Metropolitan Detroit.
Why is Wolverine proposing a new pipeline?

Wolverine commenced a binding open season to deliver refined petroleum products from refineries and storage areas in Joliet and Lemont, Illinois and Hammond and Whiting, Indiana to Woodhaven, Michigan. Subject to sufficient commitments from shippers, completion of environmental assessments, and determination of project costs based on competitive bidding, Wolverine will decide whether to proceed with the project. The project will proceed only after obtaining all necessary regulatory permits and approvals.
What is the age of Wolverine’s existing pipeline and how is it maintained?

Wolverine’s pipeline between Hammond, IN and Freedom Junction, MI was constructed in 1953. The long service life of the line is made possible by careful operating and maintenance procedures designed to preserve the integrity of the pipe, such as:

  1. Operation within safe pressure, temperature and flow rate limits for the pipe;
  2. Cathodic protection—an electrical process that sacrifices buried metal anodes in order to prevent corrosion of the pipe’s external surface;
  3.  Damage prevention, public awareness and one-call programs to reduce the risk of accidental damage to the pipeline by landowners and contractors;
  4. Installation and maintenance of line markers to warn against excavation near the pipeline;
  5. Weekly air patrols to inspect surface conditions on and adjacent to the pipeline right-of-way;
  6.  In-line inspections conducted every five years using computerized instruments to detect dents, pits and other signs of damage to or problems with the pipeline with follow-up inspection digs and repairs as required; and
  7. Compliance with all requirements of the Federal Pipeline Safety Standards contained in Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 195.

Will Wolverine be using its existing pipeline segment between Freedom Junction and Detroit Metro for the Detroit Metro Access Project?

No.  That pipeline segment is currently leased to third party pipeline operating companies under multi-year operating leases.  When possible, utilizing an existing easement/right-of-way minimizes environmental and community impacts.  The new line will be designed to meet or exceed all federal and state safety and regulatory requirements for new pipelines.
What is the difference between an easement and ROW?

(1) A legal instrument giving a transmission pipeline operator a temporary or permanent right to use a right‐of‐way for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a pipeline. It may also include temporary permits, licenses, and other agreements allowing the use of one’s property.

(2) An easement is an acquired privilege or right, such as a right‐of‐way, afforded a person or company to make limited use of another person or company’s real property. For example, the municipal water company may have an easement across your property for the purpose of installing and maintaining a water line. Similarly, oil and natural gas pipeline companies acquire easements from property owners to establish rights‐of‐way for construction, maintenance and operation of their pipelines.

(3) A legal right, acquired from a property owner, to use a strip of land for installation, operation and maintenance of a transmission pipeline.

Right‐of‐way (ROW)

(1) Property, usually consisting of a narrow, unobstructed strip or corridor of land of a specific width, which a pipeline company and the fee simple landowners have legal rights to use and occupy. A ROW is a string of contiguous properties on which easements have been acquired along which the pipeline operator has rights to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline.

(2) A defined strip of land on which an operator has the right to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline. The operator may own a right‐of‐way outright or an easement may be acquired for specific use of the right‐of‐way.

Can the new pipeline go through existing pipeline rights-of-way?

Contingent on regulatory approvals and a determination that such use is practical, Wolverine Pipe Line Company would prefer to utilize the existing Wolverine pipeline rights-of-way (ROW) because it minimizes environmental and community impacts.
Did Wolverine notify affected governments of the lease of its lines to these third parties?

Wolverine confirmed that the use of the leased pipeline segments for the shipment of crude oil was authorized/allowed by the Michigan Public Service Commission.  However, Wolverine did not attempt to notify all governmental entities.  Wolverine took this approach knowing that each pipeline operator lessee would be installing signage along the pipeline indicating that the lessee was operating the leased pipeline and also that each pipeline lessee/operator is required under DOT regulations to communicate with easement owners and affected governments annually as a part of each lessee’s Public Awareness Program.
Will landowners be notified before surveyors or other Wolverine contractors seek access to the landowner’s property?

Yes.  Act 16 of 1929 requires that Wolverine notify landowners before a surveyor accesses a landowner’s property for purpose of surveying the proposed pipeline route.  Additionally, Wolverine as a matter of practice makes every reasonable effort to notify its landowners before conducting any work on Wolverine’s existing or new pipelines.  The only exception to this practice is when there is an emergency situation, e.g. third party damage to the pipeline.
Will landowners be paid an additional easement fee?  Even if the new pipeline is going through an existing ROW?

Wolverine views landowners as our neighbors.  We intend to treat each landowner fairly.  However, each landowner agreement is unique and we therefore can’t provide a generalized response for all landowners.  However, Wolverine will review each individual landowner agreement and seek to fairly compensate landowners for new, amended and existing agreements under which Wolverine may have additional pipeline rights.  In all situations, Wolverine will timely restore and compensate landowners for any construction related damages that may occur from our pipeline construction.

Why does Wolverine require the clearing of its easements?

Safety is paramount to Wolverine. Wolverine’s decisions to clear trees and overhanging branches from its easement areas are in compliance with government recommendations contained in the Pipeline Risk Management Information System (PIPA Report) produced by the National Association of Counties Research Foundation in 2011. A clear right-of-way is essential for pipeline integrity and public safety. In the unlikely event that an emergency occurs, that is not the time to be removing trees or obstructions from the right of way (similar to “no parking” lanes near shopping centers). Immediate accessibility is necessary in case of emergencies or accidents. Pipeline companies are required by law to inspect their rights-of-way at least 26 times per year. The only practical way to do this is by air. Trees make it impossible to detect many problems that could potentially occur. Furthermore, trees within the easement make it impossible to respond in a timely manner to a pipeline emergency, putting First Responders, Wolverine’s employees and the public at greater risk.  Finally, the PIPA report describes several ways that trees and tree roots can damage pipelines. e.g. damage the protective coating on the pipeline, act as a conduit for lighting to reach an underground pipeline, and tree roots encircling and thereby denting the pipeline.
How much land does Wolverine need for the new easement for a second pipeline?

Wolverine has hired Michiana Land Services to obtain a 75-foot wide easement wherever possible to enable future repairs to the pipelines in an efficient manner without impacting the surrounding properties. The determination on width of each easement is dependent on local site conditions, alternative surrounding easement access and each landowner’s situation.  Landowner concerns are taken into consideration to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement.
A local municipality only used a 10 feet easement to build a sewer line, why can’t Wolverine do the same?

There are significant differences between a public sewer line and a hydrocarbon. Small diameter sewer line may not be buried as deeply and larger diameter sewer lines generally have manholes, which enable subsurface, internal access.  Refined petroleum pipelines do not have manholes. (A representative from Ann Arbor’s Sewer department indicated that they use a formula to determine the width of easement but 30 feet is a minimum.)
The following key considerations help explain why the easement for a petroleum pipeline is usually at least 50 feet wide:

  1. The trench should be about two feet deeper than the pipe which means a minimum of seven feet,
  2. To provide a safe work area in the trench requires approximately a six foot flat bottom in the trench,
  3. The width of the trench will vary depending on soil conditions but at a minimum, OSHA requires a slope to prevent cave ins (or, about twenty-four feet including the six foot flat bottom to the trench),
  4. To maintain worker safety while in the trench and for safe operation of the excavation equipment, a three foot set back from the edge of the trench is required,
  5. The equipment used to excavate and lower a pipeline into the trench requires at least a ten foot wide track area adjacent to the three foot setback from the safely sloped pipeline trench,
  6. An additional ten or more feet adjacent to the excavation equipment track path is needed for temporary accumulation of excavated soil.

In most situations where the easement will contain multiple pipelines, a typical fifty-foot easement is expanded to sixty-six to seventy-five feet to minimize work directly over the other pipeline(s) in the easement.


Where will the center of the easement be located?

The center of the easement can vary with each land parcel. The landowner can call Wolverine or its land services contractor, Michiana Land Services, to obtain the easement information. A Wolverine employee or contractor will stake the exact location of the pipeline and the boundaries of the easement.
On which side of the existing pipeline will the new pipeline be placed?

This varies with conditions and the final design is subject to further development.
How deep is the existing pipeline and how deep will the new Wolverine pipeline be installed?

The existing pipeline varies in depth between 24-36 inches deep. The new line will be installed at a minimum of 48 inches deep. The depth varies depending upon the terrain and obstacles such as roads and ditches.
Will the new pipeline be a single or double wall line?

The new pipeline will be a single wall line, coated with fusion bonded epoxy coating, the industry standard.  It will be cathodically protected from corrosion and internally inspected in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration pipeline integrity management requirements (currently every five years).
Where will the valves be located? How far apart will the new valves be located?

Valve placements are decided during the design of the new pipeline. Typically valves are located on each side of major rivers.  The design of the pipeline including the placement and installation of valves is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
What will be the pressure of the Detroit Metro Access pipeline?

The proposed pipeline will be designed for a maximum operating pressure of 1460 PSI, but will operate at less than 1000 PSI (estimated to about 900 PSI) The new line will be pressure tested to at least 125 percent of its maximum operating pressure (1460 psi x 1.25 = 1800 psi, almost twice the planned operating pressure) before being placed in service.
Are there regulations about how far apart two pipelines can be located?

The U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require pipelines to be constructed at least 12 inches from any other structures.  However, to accommodate construction and maintenance of the pipelines, Wolverine will locate the new parallel line approximately 10 feet from the existing line.
Will this new pipeline carry tar sands?

No.  Wolverine commenced a binding open season to transport refined petroleum products. A vital factor that Wolverine will consider to move forward with plans to build a new pipeline is the commitment by shippers to sign multi-year contracts to ship refined petroleum products.  There are no plans to transport tar sands crude oil in this pipeline.
If there is a leak, how long will it take Wolverine to respond?

The pipeline is monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at the Wolverine control center in Portage, Michigan. If an anomaly in the pipeline operating parameters is detected at the control center, the pipeline will be shut down to stop product flow and Wolverine personnel will be dispatched to investigate and assess the situation. Wolverine has personnel strategically placed along the system.
With the addition of the pipeline, will there be added value via taxation for local townships?

Yes.  Should the project prove economically feasible, and the proposed 35 mile pipeline be constructed between Wolverine’s Freedom Junction Station and Wolverine’s Detroit Metro Station, new, incremental ad valorem taxes approximately equal to the existing collected taxes will be generated for the Townships through which the pipeline is constructed.  In other words, ad valorem taxes collected annually from Wolverine Pipe Line Company along the pipeline route where the new pipeline is proposed may approximately double.
Is an Environmental Statement/Study required?

Yes.  Wolverine will comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and associated permit and approval requirements.  Wolverine will conduct an environmental assessment to determine environmental impacts related to the route and construction of the proposed new pipeline segment.
Will there be a public hearing held by the Michigan Public Service Commission?

Pursuant to Michigan Public Act 16 of 1929, public hearings were held as a part of the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) pipeline approval process. Wolverine satisfied concerns raised to the MPSC by two interveners. A third intervener was in the case for information purposes and then withdrew from the case.
What is the filing and approval process for pipeline construction?

On June 17, 2015, Wolverine submitted an application for a pipeline a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the MPSC under Act 16 of 1929, (b) a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The MPSC issued an order authorizing construction of a pipeline on January 19, 2016.
How can I contact Wolverine if I have questions or there is an emergency?

Wolverine’s web site ( provides an easy way to contact Wolverine.  Additionally, Wolverine has established a site specifically for questions relating to our proposed Detroit Metro Access Project.  The Wolverine web site and its field pipeline markers indicate that in the case of an emergency contact Wolverine by phone at 888-337-5004.  Local first responders also know how to contact Wolverine in the event of an emergency.
Is Wolverine’s existing 1953 pipeline segment between Wolverine’s Freedom Junction and Detroit Metro Stations safe?

Prior to leasing Wolverine’s pipeline between Romulus, MI and Wolverine’s Freedom Junction Station in 2012, Wolverine ran an ultrasonic inspection tool to identify potential pipeline anomalies. Anomalies were investigated and repaired as required by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulations. In addition, numerous anomalies that did not meet the PHMSA threshold for repair were inspected.  Finally, the pipeline was successfully pressure tested with water (hydrostatically tested) to confirm its maximum operating pressure.  This is the same test that is required for new pipelines. It requires the operator to pressurize and hold the pipeline at 125% of the intended maximum operating pressure for at least eight hours.  Accordingly, Wolverine’s 1953 pipe segment that is leased to a third party satisfied all federal or state regulatory safety requirements.

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