When people first hear that Line 5 is coming from Canada – OH, EH? – they automatically assume that it’s carrying heavy crude oil – but it’s not. You see, pipelines carry a lot of different things, and Line 5 just happens to be carrying energy products called light crude oil and natural gas liquids – which some people refer to as NGLs. If you’re curious about what those even are – we’ve got plenty to tell you!
First, it’s important to know the difference when people talk about oil. You see, crude oil is a general term to describe all varieties of oil, but actually, there are essentially four main types of oil – very light oils, light oils, medium oils, and heavy fuel oils. As we said before, Line 5 carries light crude oil through its line. This oil helps create fuels for various modes of transportation like gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel.
The other products that Line 5 carries are NGLs. NGLs are a blend of materials that are made up of several components that come from natural gas. To separate them, they need to be sent to a specialized plant – or “cracker.” Once each component is separated at these plants, you get ethane, butane, isobutene, propane, and pentane. Each of these NGLs has its own special characteristics, and become the building blocks that are needed to produce so many of our consumer products. They are also used in various applications from cooking and heating to plastics and as a chemical that is mixed into different fuels for vehicles.