Montreal Gazette

Security for Enbridge

pipeline that runs through region is under scrutiny,

- JASON MAGDER jmagder@montrealga­ Twitter: @OffIslandN­ews

It takes at least three minutes to stop the flow of an oil pipeline when a spill occurs, a spokespers­on for Enbridge Inc. said.

But it can take several minutes for the company to be alerted to a spill, said Graham White, manager of business communicat­ions at Enbridge.

Enbridge’s pipeline security is coming under scrutiny because the company wants authorizat­ion to reverse the flow of oil in its 9B pipeline (to transport oil west to east), which cuts through the northern part of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, and crosses the Lake of Two Mountains near the town of Rigaud. The company also wants permission to transport heavy crude oil through that pipeline, which environmen­talists warn carries a heavier risk, and is more difficult to clean up in the event of a spill. The company’s request could be granted by the end of the year.

White said the line, which dates to 1976, has a good safety record, and if approval is granted Enbridge will have to do intensive inspection­s, which will only make the line safer.

“We will be doing more integrity digs, and that increases the safety and integrity of the line. Because when we do these integrity digs, we’re able to dig down to the line and do what’s required.”

Since it was built, there have been 12 leaks (mostly due to dents and corrosion) and one rupture, according to Enbridge’s submission to the National Energy Board. The last leak occurred in 2005, caused by mechanical damage.

Regional mayors have expressed concern over Enbridge’s proposal, which will undergo hearings at the National Energy Board at the end of August. They want Quebec’s public hearings body on environmen­tal issues to have a chance to examine the possible consequenc­es.

White said if approval is granted, not much will change with the pipeline. For the most part, it will still be transporti­ng light crude oil because the Suncor refinery in Montreal East has a limited capacity to refine heavy crude oil.

“The vast majority will still be light,” he said. “It will be exactly what is being transporte­d now.”

White explained Enbridge’s pipelines are under constant surveillan­ce, and if there is a sudden drop in pressure it is verified to make sure a spill isn’t occurring.

“We can take readings at the control statio or send someone out to do a visual inspe tion,” White said.

He added that all Enbridge employees hav the capacity to inspect the line, and the com pany also has third-party contractor­s it ca employ. First responders in regions whe the pipeline runs also have training and th appropriat­e contact informatio­n if there is problem.

If there is any doubt, the default option f the company is to shut down the line, Whi said.

However, he explained that takes time three minutes — to make sure there isn’t dam age caused to other parts of the pipeline.

“There’s something called the water-ham mer effect,” he said. “If you shut it off to quickly the momentum of the flowing liqu can cause pressure increases behind whe you shut it off, which can cause integri issues.”

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In its latest disclosure, Enbridge reported during the year 2011 that its network experience­d 94 reportable spills, leaks and releases totalling approximat­ely 2,366 barrels, which would amount to about 376,000 litres (a barrel has 159 litres).

Spills from pipelines can have devastatin­g effects, as a community in Mayflower, Arkansas, learned last month. About 20 homes in the small town were evacuated when thousands of gallons of heavy crude oil leaked from Exxon Mobile’s Pegasus pipeline.

Enbridge is still cleaning up from the massive 2010 spill of heavy crude in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The bill is expected to reach $1 billion. More than 3 million litres of oil spilled out of the ruptured 6B pipeline in what’s being dubbed the largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history.

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