Completion of Enbridge Inc.’s contested Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project is a step closer but still delayed by a year until 2020 following an approval Tuesday by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC).

“We are hopeful the remaining permitting schedule…continues to stay on track,” Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Smith told NGI. The schedule was established by Gov. Tim Walz’s administration.

The state timeline, established in early March for the Line 3 replacement (L3R), postponed completion by setting the construction permits target date for Minnesota’s US$2.6 billion share of the project to Nov. 1 from Enbridge’s original goal for this spring.

The MPUC let the revised target stand by rejecting the latest petition for reversal of its June 2018 Line 3 approval decision. Native and environmental groups continue to fight the project, with support from Minnesota’s commerce department.

Smith described the MPUC’s approval confirmation as “an expected next step in the four-year regulatory process.”

The Calgary-based firm called the ruling a “decision to approve the conditions placed on L3R’s certificate of need — conditions meant to protect Minnesotans — allowing this critical energy infrastructure modernization project to move forward.”

Canada’s oil exporters are projected to gain 370,000 b/d of delivery capacity into the United States from the replacement of aging pipe in the Enbridge network. Enbridge also is in discussions to repurpose one of its diluent pipelines to offer relief to the oil takeaway problem in Western Canada.

The plan is to potentially reverse Southern Lights, originally brought into service in 2010 to transport diluent, which typically is either condensate or natural gasoline. Also called Line 13, the 1,600 mile, 20-inch-diameter pipeline runs from Illinois to Enbridge’s Edmonton Terminal in Alberta.