Enbridge Kalamazoo cleanup now set at $1.157 billion and growing

The cost of Enbridge’s cleanup from the spill at Marshall, Michigan in 2010 is now $1.157 billion the company said Friday as it released its second quarter results. That is an increase of $35 million from the estimates Enbridge released at the end of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014.

As of June, 2014, Enbridge faces possibly $30 million in fines and penalties from the United States government.

In its quarterly report Enbridge said

EEP   [Embridge Energy Partners] continues to perform necessary remediation, restoration and monitoring of the areas affected by the Line 6B crude oil release. All the initiatives EEP is undertaking in the monitoring and restoration phase are intended to restore the crude oil release area to the satisfaction of the appropriate regulatory authorities.

On March 14, 2013, as previously reported, the United States Environmental Protection Agency ordered in Enbridge to undertake “additional containment and active recovery of submerged oil relating to the Line 6B crude oil release.”

new Enbridge logoEnbridge says it has “completed substantially all of the EPA order, “with the exception of required dredging in and around Morrow Lake and its delta.”

“Approximately $30 million of the increase in the total cost estimate during the three months ended June 30, 2014 is primarily related to the finalization of the MDEQ approved Schedule of Work and other costs related to the on-going river restoration activities near Ceresco,” Enbridge reported.

Enbridge also said it is working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality “to transition submerged oil reassessment, sheen management and sediment trap monitoring and maintenance activities from the EPA to the MDEQ, through a Kalamazoo River Residual Oil Monitoring and Maintenance Work Plan.”

Enbridge also said that costs may still go up, saying there continues to be the potential for “additional costs in connection with this crude oil release due to variations in any or all of the cost categories, including modified or revised requirements from regulatory agencies, in addition to fines and penalties and expenditures associated with litigation and settlement of claims.”

Enbridge said that “a majority of the costs incurred in connection with the crude oil release for Line 6B are covered by Enbridge’s comprehensive insurance policy…. which had an aggregate limit of  $650 million for pollution liability.” So far, Enbridge has recovered $547 million of the $650 million from its insurers. Enbridge is suing its insurers to recover the rest of the money.

That means that “Enbridge and its affiliates have exceeded the limits of their coverage under this insurance policy. Additionally, fines and penalties would not be covered under the existing insurance policy,” the company said.

Insurance renewed

Enbridge said it has “renewed its comprehensive property and liability insurance programs under which the Company is insured through April 30, 2015 with a liability aggregate limit of $700 million, including sudden and accidental pollution liability, with a deductible applicable to oil pollution events of $30 million per event, from the previous $10 million.”

It adds:

In the unlikely event multiple insurable incidents occur which exceed coverage limits within the same insurance period, the total insurance coverage will be allocated among Enbridge entities on an equitable basis based on an insurance allocation agreement among Enbridge and its subsidiaries.

All Enbridge figures are in US dollars

The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel required Enbridge that “its Northern Gateway’s Financial Assurances Plan must provide a total coverage of $950 million for the costs of liabilities for, without limitation, cleanup, remediation, and other damages caused by the Project during the operations phase. The plan should include the following components and minimum coverage levels.” (That figure in Canadian dollars)

Enbridge’s Michigan cleanup costs now exceed JRP pipeline conditions for Gateway, SEC filing shows

NTSB staff examine ruptured pipe
US National Transportation Safety Board staff examine a ruptured pipe from the Enbridge oil spill in August, 2010. The photo was released by the NTSB May 21, 2012. (NTSB)

The costs for Enbridge to clean up the 2010 Marshall, Michigan oil spill now far exceeds the maximum estimate that the Joint Review Panel gave for a major spill on the Northern Gateway Pipeline and also exceeds the amount of money the JRP ordered Enbridge to set aside to deal with a spill. Enbridge’s cleanup costs have also now edged past the higher liability amount requested by the Haisla Nation.

According to the US firm Enbridge Energy Partners’ filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, as of September 30, 2013, the cost of cleanup was $1.035 billion US, not including possible additional fines and penalties that might be imposed by US authorities in the future.

In its decision, the Joint Review Panel estimated the cost a major oil spill from the Northern Gateway project would be about $693 million.  As part of the 209 conditions, the JRP ordered Enbridge to set aside “financial assurances” totaling $950 million.

Note all costs in this article are for a pipeline breach. The Joint Review Panel had different estimates for a tanker spill and the liability rules for marine traffic are different from pipelines.

In its filing for the third quarter of 2013, with the SEC, Enbridge Energy Partners say that the cost up until September 2013 had “exceed[ed] the limits of our insurance coverage.” The same filing says that Enbridge is in a legal dispute with one its insurers.

In its SEC filing, Enbridge says:

Lakehead Line 6B Crude Oil Release
We continue to perform necessary remediation, restoration and monitoring of the areas affected by the Line 6B crude oil release. All the initiatives we are undertaking in the monitoring and restoration phase are intended to restore the crude oil release area to the satisfaction of the appropriate regulatory authorities.
As of September 30, 2013, our total cost estimate for the Line 6B crude oil release is $1,035.0 million, which is an increase of $215.0 million as compared to December 31, 2012. This total estimate is before insurance recoveries and excluding additional fines and penalties which may be imposed by federal, state and local governmental agencies, other than the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, civil penalty of $3.7 million, we paid during the third quarter of 2012. On March 14, 2013, we received an order from the EPA, or the Environmental Protection Agency, which we refer to as the Order, that defined the scope which requires additional containment and active recovery of submerged oil relating to the Line 6B crude oil release. We submitted our initial proposed work plan required by the EPA on April 4, 2013, and we resubmitted the workplan on April 23, 2013. The EPA approved the Submerged Oil Recovery and Assessment workplan, or SORA, with modifications on May 8, 2013. We incorporated the modification and submitted an approved SORA on May 13, 2013. The Order states that the work must be completed by December 31, 2013.

The $175.0 million increase in the total cost estimate during the three month period ending March 31, 2013, was attributable to additional work required by the Order. The $40.0 million increase during the three month period ending June 30, 2013 was attributable to further refinement and definition of the additional dredging scope per the Order and associated environmental, permitting, waste removal and other related costs. The actual costs incurred may differ from the foregoing estimate as we complete the work plan with the EPA related to the Order and work with other regulatory agencies to assure that our work plan complies with their requirements. Any such incremental costs will not be recovered under our insurance policies as our costs for the incident at September 30, 2013 exceeded the limits of our insurance coverage.

According to the SEC filing, the breakdown of costs include $2.6 million paid to owners of homes adversely impacted by the spill.

Despite the efforts we have made to ensure the reasonableness of our estimates, changes to the recorded amounts associated with this release are possible as more reliable information becomes available. We continue to have the potential of incurring additional costs in connection with this crude oil release due to variations in any or all of the categories described above, including modified or revised requirements from regulatory agencies in addition to fines and penalties as well as expenditures associated with litigation and settlement of claims.
The material components underlying our total estimated loss for the cleanup, remediation and restoration associated with the Line 6B crude oil release include the following:
(in millions)

Response Personnel & Equipment  $454

Environmental Consultants  $193

Professional, regulatory and other $388

Total $ 1,035

For the nine month periods ended September 30, 2013 and 2012, we made payments of $62.3 million and $120.9 million, respectively, for costs associated with the Line 6B crude oil release. For the nine month period ended September 30, 2013, we recognized a $2.6 million impairment for homes purchased due to the Line 6B crude oil release which is included in the “Environmental costs, net of recoveries” on our consolidated statements of income. As of September 30, 2013 and December 31, 2012, we had a remaining estimated liability of $265.9 million and $115.8 million, respectively.

As for insurance, Enbridge Energy Partners say:

The claims for the crude oil release for Line 6B are covered by the insurance policy that expired on April 30, 2011, which had an aggregate limit of $650.0 million for pollution liability. Based on our remediation spending through September 30, 2013, we have exceeded the limits of coverage under this insurance policy. During the third quarter 2013, we received $42.0 million of insurance recoveries for a claim we filed in connection with the Line 6B crude oil release and recognized as a reduction to environmental cost in the second quarter of 2013. We recognized $170.0 million of insurance recoveries as reductions to “Environmental costs, net of recoveries” in our consolidated statements of income for the three and nine month periods ended September 30, 2012 for the Line 6B crude oil release. As of September 30, 2013, we have recorded total insurance recoveries of $547.0 million for the Line 6B crude oil release, out of the $650.0 million aggregate limit. We expect to record receivables for additional amounts we claim for recovery pursuant to our insurance policies during the period that we deem realization of the claim for recovery to be probable.

In March 2013, we and Enbridge filed a lawsuit against the insurers of our remaining $145.0 million coverage, as one particular insurer is disputing our recovery eligibility for costs related to our claim on the Line 6B crude oil release and the other remaining insurers assert that their payment is predicated on the outcome of our recovery with that insurer. We received a partial recovery payment of $42.0 million from the other remaining insurers and have since amended our lawsuit, such that it now includes only one insurer. While we believe that our claims for the remaining $103.0 million are covered under the policy, there can be no assurance that we will prevail in this lawsuit.


The Joint Review, Enbridge and Michigan

The Joint Review Panel based its finding on the Marshall, Michigan spill on the figure of $767 million from the summer of 2012 –again showing the limitations of the JRP’s evidentiary deadlines since the costs are now much higher.

The JRP quoted Enbridge as saying:

Northern Gateway considered the high costs of the Marshall, Michigan spill, which were at least $252,000 per cubic metre ($40,000 per barrel), to be an outlier or a rare event because the spill occurred in a densely populated area, because the pipeline’s response time was abnormally long, and because there was the prospect of potentially lengthy legal proceedings.

Enbridge assured the JRP that the corporate culture and management changes and equipment upgrades since the Marshall, Michigan spill lowered that chances of a similar event.

The company based its models for the JRP on much smaller spills, including one spill at Lake Wabamun, Alberta from a train not a pipeline (Vol. 2 p 357)

Enbridge’s risk assessment did not “generate an estimate of economic losses caused
by a spill.”

The JRP says Northern Gateway relied on its analysis of literature, and spill events experienced by Enbridge and other liquid hydrocarbon carriers in Alberta and British Columbia. After assessing all of this information, Northern Gateway regarded the high costs of a cleanup as “conservative”–meaning the company expects costs to be lower than its estimates in evidence before the JRP.

In Northern Gateway’s view the most costly pipeline spill incident would be a full-bore oil pipeline rupture, with an estimated cost of $200 million, and an extremely low probability of occurrence.

Haisla evidence

In their evidence, the Haisla (and other First Nations and intervenors) were doubtful about Northern Gateway’s assurances. The Haisla asked that Enbridge have a minimum of $1 billion in liability, an amount Enbridge has now exceeded in Michigan.

Haisla Nation estimated the cost of damage to ecosystem services because of a terrestrial oil spill from Northern Gateway’s pipeline would be in the range of $12,000 to $610 million for a 30-year period.

The Haisla’s cost estimates were based on values for environmental goods and services and probabilities of spills that were independent of Northern Gateway’s parameters for estimating oil spill costs. In contrast to Northern Gateway’s estimated spill frequency and costs, the Haisla predicted that spills would occur more often and placed a higher value on damages to environmental goods and services.

Haisla Nation argued that Northern Gateway overestimated its ability to detect and respond to a spill. In the Haisla’s view this resulted in the cost of a spill and the requisite financial assurances being understated. Haisla cited several factors, including: remote location, limited access, challenging terrain, seasonal conditions, and river flow conditions that would cause the cost of cleaning up a spill in the Kitimat River valley to be significantly greater than the costs associated with Enbridge’s Marshall, Michigan spill.

For these reasons, Haisla proposed that Northern Gateway should be required to obtain a minimum of $1 billion of liability coverage through insurance and financial assurances. Haisla said that Northern Gateway should file annually the report from an independent third party assessing the financial assurances plan. (Vol 2 p359)

In response Northern Gateway said:

Northern Gateway said that Haisla’s findings were based on a number of fundamental methodological flaws and a lack of probability analysis to support the high frequency of occurrence of oil spill events. Northern Gateway argued that Haisla’s estimates of ecosystem service values were inflated because they were based on values from unrelated studies. In Northern Gateway’s view, Haisla relied on high passive use values that were not justified.

JRP ruling

As it has in most of its decision, the JRP accepted Northern Gateway’s evidence, including its explanation of the Marshall, Michigan spill and then went on to base its spill cost estimates not on a pipeline breach but on the 2005 railway spill at Lake Wabumum, near White Sands, Alberta.

The Panel accepts that the cleanup costs for the Marshall, Michigan spill were orders of magnitude higher because of the extended response time. In this application, the Panel accepts Northern Gateway’s commitment to complete the shutdown in no more than 13 minutes after detection. For this reason the Panel did not use the Marshall spill costs in its calculations. The spill volume and the resulting costs are directly dependent on the Northern Gateway’s control room staff and the pipeline control system fully closing the adjacent block valves no longer than 13 minutes from the detection of an alarm event, as well as the amount of oil which would drain out of the pipeline after valve closure due to elevation differences.

The Panel decided on a total unit cost of $138,376 per cubic metre ($22,000 per barrel). This is midway between the unit cost of $88,058 per cubic metre ($14,000) per barrel proposed by Northern Gateway and the unit cost of $188,694 per cubic metre ($30,000 per barrel) for the Lake Wabamun spill. It is about one-half of the Marshall spill’s unit cost. Giving weight to the Lake Wabamun costs recognizes actual costs experienced in a Canadian spill and the greater costs of spills in high consequence areas. In these areas, individuals, populations, property, and the environment would have a high sensitivity to hydrocarbon spills. The deleterious effects of the spill would increase with the spill volume, the extent of the spill, and the difficulty in accessing the spill area for cleanup and remediation.

Using these spill volume and unit cost values in the calculation below, the Panel estimated the total cost of a large spill could be $700 million. Total cost of a spill = 31,500 barrels x $22,000 per barrel = $693 million, or $700 million when rounded up.


The Panel based the financial assurances requirements for Northern Gateway on a spill with a total estimated cost of $700 million and directs Northern Gateway to develop a financial assurances plan with a total coverage of $950 million that would include the following components:
i. Ready cash of $100 million to cover the initial costs of a spill;
ii. Core coverage of $600 million that is made up of stand-alone, third party liability insurance and other appropriate financial assurance instruments, and
iii. Financial backstopping via parental, other third party guarantees, or no fault insurance of at least $250 million to cover costs that exceed the payout of components i. and ii.
The financial backstopping would be available to fill the gap if the spill volumes or unit costs were under-estimated or if the payout from the core coverage would be less than 100 per cent.

The Panel noted that:

The evidence indicates that there is some probability that a large oil spill may occur at some time over the life of the project. In these circumstances the Panel must take a careful and precautionary approach because of the high consequences of a large spill. The Panel has decided that Northern Gateway must arrange and maintain sufficient financial assurances to cover potential risks and liabilities related to large oil spills during the operating life of the project.

Northern Gateway committed to investing $500 million in additional facilities and mitigation measures such as thicker wall pipe, more block valves, more in-line inspections, and complementary leak detection systems. This initiative should enhance the safety and reliability of the system and help reduce and mitigate the effects of a spill, but it would not eliminate the risk or costs of spills. This initiative is not a direct substitute for third party liability insurance and does not eliminate the need for liability insurance or any other form of financial assurance to cover the cost of a spill. (p 361)

So the JRP decision comes down to this, if you accept Northern Gateway’s position that pipeline spills are rare and mostly small, then the company has the financial resources to cover the damage. If, however, Northern Gateway is wrong and the costs of a pipeline cleanup exceed the $950 million required by the Joint Review Panel, as has happened in Michigan, then those JRP conditions are already obsolete.

(Northwest Coast Energy News encourages all readers to read the complete JRP report  and SEC filing since space and readability does not permit fully quoting from the report)

Enbridge misses deadline to clean up Michigan’s Morrow Lake; EPA cites reluctance to do winter cleanup

EPA map of Kalamazoo River
EPA map of river closures and dredging operations on the Kalamazoo River during 2013. (EPA)

Enbridge has missed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s deadline to clean up parts of the Marshall, Michigan bitumen spill by December 31, 2013.

Local television news, WOOD-TV says the EPA is now considering “enforcement options.”
The EPA had already granted Enbridge a 10 month extension that the company requested in March, 2013, setting the new December deadline.

In November, Enbridge requested a second extension. The EPA denied that request.

From the EPA letter it appears that, as in previous years, Enbridge is trying to avoid continuing clean up work into the winter. The EPA rejects that position, telling Enbridge it shouldn’t wait until the spring run off could spread the sunken bitumen.

The EPA says that beginning in March, 2013, “Enbridge has successfully removed oil and sediment from two of the three major impoundment areas identified in the order and from several smaller sediment trap locations.”

The area that Enbridge failed to clean up is known as the Morrow Lake and Morrow Lake Delta. The cleanup in that area was delayed when the Comstock Township planning commission unanimously  denied Enbridge a permit for “dredge pad” after fierce public opposition

The letter to Enbridge, from Jeffrey Kimble, Federal On-Scene Coordinator denying the extension is another scathing indictment of Enbridge’s attitude toward the public and the cleanup, citing Enbridge failing to prepare “adequate contingency plans,” by failing to recognize the “serious opposition” the dredging plans.

Although the EPA had told Enbridge to consider alternative plans—and Enbridge claimed it did that—the EPA found the Enbridge’s own logs showed the company didn’t start considering alternatives until it was obvious that Comstock Township would reject their dredging plans.

The EPA letter also reveals that once again Enbridge is reluctant to do further cleanup work during the Michigan winter. The EPA rejects that stance, saying that “Removal of oiled sediments prior to the spring thaw will lessen the potential oiled sediment transport in the spring to Morrow Lake via increased river velocities from rain and ice melt.”

Although we recognize that the work required by the Order is unlikely to be completed by December 31, 2013, U.S. EPA believes that had Enbridge taken appropriate steps earlier as requested, it would not require an extension now. In particular, U.S. EPA believes that Enbridge has continuously failed to prepare adequate contingency plans for a project of this nature. For example, U.S. EPA acknowledges that failure to obtain a site plan approval for use of the CCP property for a dredge pad was a setback in the timely completion of the work in the Delta.

However, Enbridge failed to prepare any contingency plans recognizing the possibility of such an occurrence. Enbridge has known since at least the middle of July 2013 that there was serious opposition to its proposed use of the CCP property. When it became clear in August 2013 that opposition to the site use might delay the project, U.S. EPA directed Enbridge to “conduct a more detailed review of your options in short order.”

Although your letter claims that Enbridge “has considered such alternatives,” your logs indicate that Enbridge did not hold initial discussions with the majority of these property owners until long after the final decision to abandon plans for use of the CCP property. These contact logs do not demonstrate that Enbridge fully explored and reviewed alternative options in a timely manner so as to avoid delay in completion of the work. Although Enbridge claims that use of identified alternative properties would be denied by Comstock Township, Enbridge did not present any site plans to the Township for approval (other than use of the county park for staging of frac tanks). To the extent that any of Enbridge’s contingency plans include the use of land for dredge pads, U.S. EPA believes that Enbridge should begin multiple submissions for property use until one is accepted….

Enbridge claims that it cannot install winter containment in the Delta to prevent the potential migration of sediments to the lake. To support that claim, Enbridge has attached a letter from STS directing Enbridge to remove anchors and associated soft containment during winter monthsas these structures could damage STS’s turbines. However, none of the correspondence provided by Enbridge discusses the use of more secure containment methods, such as metal sheet piling, which may not pose the same risks as soft containment structures. Enbridge should consider using sheet piling to construct cells which would both allow winter work and contain the sediment during that work. Enbridge should therefore try to obtain access from STS for this specific work, and for other appropriate work, for the winter timeframe. Use of sheet pile cells would allow continued operations during the winter, especially in the southern zone of the Delta outside of the main river channel. Removal of oiled sediments prior to the spring thaw will lessen the potential oiled sediment transport in the spring to Morrow Lake via increased river
velocities from rain and ice melt.

Finally, U.S. EPA is unwilling to allow Enbridge to wait until after the likely spring high
velocity river flush to reinstall the E-4 containment structures. U.S. EPA has reviewed Enbridge’s modeling, which Enbridge claims supports its requested timeline, and has found it incomplete. The model has not incorporated, and does not match, field observation of flow velocities and water levels and their potential to impact upstream critical structures if containment is in place. Moreover, U.S. EPA completely disagrees with Enbridge’s assertion that there is no evidence of migration of submerged oil during high flow events. The results of three years of poling and sheen tracking demonstrate that Line 6B oil is mobile during periods of
high flow. Now that Enbridge has a five year permit from MDEQ for the E-4 containment system, U.S. EPA reiterates that this containment must be in place immediately upon thawconditions in the spring….

Although Enbridge’s proposed two phase approach may have components that can be incorporated into a final plan, it should not be considered the approved way forward. U.S. EPA believes that pausing the work cycle until new poling can be done in June or July of 2014 could again result in a wasted construction season in the Delta. Enbridge should consider and utilize a combination of techniques in the plan. For example, several dredge pad sites have been identified by Enbridge. Enbridge should obtain approval for one of these sites, or a combination of smaller sites, so as to support hydraulic dredging in conjunction with the current approved
approach and any potential dry excavation techniques. Enbridge should also consider other winter work techniques, such as cell build out and dewatering in the Delta via sheet piling.

As always, U.S. EPA will continue to work with Enbridge to develop adequate plans and complete the work required by the Order. However, nothing in this letter excuses any noncompliance with the Order nor does it serve as the granting of any extension to any deadline in the Order. U.S. EPA reserves all its rights to pursue an enforcement action for any noncompliance with the Order.

The EPA letter also calls into question the ruling of the Joint Review Panel on the Enbridge Northern Gateway. The JRP accepts, without question, Enbridge’s assurances that the company has changed its attitude and policies since the long delay in 2010 in detecting the pipeline rupture in Marshall, Michigan.

The JRP, on the other hand, accepts, without question, Enbridge’s assurances that it has expertise in winter oil recovery from a pipeline spill.

Parties questioned Northern Gateway about locating and recovering oil under ice. Northern Gateway said that Enbridge conducts emergency exercises in winter and that Northern Gateway would learn from those experiences.
Northern Gateway outlined a number of oil detection techniques including visual assessment (at ice cracks and along the banks), drills, probes, aircraft, sniffer dogs, and trajectory modelling. It said that, once located, oil would be recovered by cutting slots into the ice and using booms, skimmers, and pump systems to capture oil travelling under the ice surface.

The company said that oil stranded under ice or along banks would be recovered as the ice started to melt and break up. It discussed examples of winter oil recovery operations during Enbridge’s Marshall, Michigan incident, and said that operational recovery decisions would be made by the Unified Command according to the circumstances.

Northern Gateway said that equipment caches would be pre-positioned at strategic locations, such as the west portal of the Hoult tunnel. It said that decisions regarding the location or use of pre-positioned equipment caches would be made during detailed design and planning, based on a number of considerations including, but not limited to, probability of a spill, access, site security,
environmental sensitivities, and potential for oil recovery at the response site.

(vol 2 page 153)

In its ruling, the Joint Review Panel said

The Panel finds that Northern Gateway’s extensive evidence regarding oil spill modelling, prevention, planning, and response was adequately tested during the proceeding, and was credible and sufficient for this stage in the regulatory process.
Parties such as the Province of British Columbia, Gitxaala Nation, Haisla Nation, and Coalition argued that Northern Gateway had not provided enough information to inform the Panel about proposed emergency preparedness and response planning. The Panel does not share this view.

Northern Gateway and other parties have provided sufficient information to inform the Panel’s views and requirements regarding malfunctions, accidents, and emergency preparedness and response planning at this stage of the regulatory process.

Many parties said that Northern Gateway had not demonstrated that its spill response would be “effective.” Various parties had differing views as to what an effective spill response would entail.

The Panel is of the view that an effective response would include stopping or containing the source of the spill, reducing harm to the natural and socio-economic environment to the greatest extent possible through timely response actions, and appropriate follow-up and monitoring and long-term cleanup. Based on the evidence, in the Panel’s view, adequate preparation and planning can lead to an effective response, but the ultimate success of the response would not be fully known
until the time of the spill event due to the many factors which could inhibit the effectiveness of the response. The Panel finds that Northern Gateway is being proactive in its planning and preparation for effective spill response….

The Panel is of the view that an effective response does not guarantee recovery of all spilled oil, and that that no such guarantee could be provided, particularly in the event of a large terrestrial, freshwater, or marine spill.

The oil spill preparedness and response commitments made by Northern Gateway cannot ensure recovery of the majority of oil from a large spill. Recovery of the majority of spilled oil may be possible under some conditions, but experience indicates that oil recovery may be very low due to factors such as weather conditions, difficult access, and sub-optimal response time, particularly for large marine spills. …

To verify compliance with Northern Gateway’s commitments regarding emergency preparedness and response, and to demonstrate that Northern Gateway has developed appropriate site-specific emergency preparedness and response measures, the Panel requires Northern Gateway to demonstrate
that it is able to appropriately respond to an emergency for each 10-kilometre-long segment of the pipeline.

The Panel notes the concerns of intervenors regarding Northern Gateway’s ability to respond efficiently and effectively to incidents in remote areas, and its plan to consider this during detailed design and planning. The Panel finds that Northern Gateway’s commitment to respond immediately to all spills and to incorporate response time targets within its spill response planning is sufficient to
address these concerns. Northern Gateway said that its emergency response plans would incorporate a target of 6 to 12 hours for internal resources to arrive at the site of a spill. It also said that it would target a response time of 2 to 4 hours at certain river control points.

The Panel agrees with Northern Gateway and several intervenors that access to remote areas for emergency response and severe environmental conditions pose substantial challenges. The Panel notes that the company has committed to develop detailed access management plans and to evaluate contingencies where timely ground or air access is not available due to weather, snow, or other logistic
or safety issues.

Despite the EPA letter (which admittedly was released long after the JRP evidentiary deadline) that shows that Enbridge did not consult the people of Comstock Township, Michigan, the JRP says

The Panel accepts Northern Gateway’s commitment to consult with communities, Aboriginal groups, and regulatory authorities. The objective of this consultation is to refine its emergency preparedness and response procedures by gaining local knowledge of the challenges that would be present in different locations at different times of the year
(Vol 2 p 165-167)

EPA letter to Enbridge denying deadline extension  (pdf)

Has Enbridge “moved to the dark side?”

So far, Enbridge’s public and community relations efforts on issues like Northern Gateway and Kalamazoo, have for, the most part, been a disaster. In BC, since the Joint Review hearings wrapped in June, Enbridge has been on a full out campaign to convince British Columbians to support Northern Gateway.

Now, at least to me and my geeky sense of humour, it appears, that Enbridge has another PR fiasco in the making.

A few minutes ago, as I was scanning my Tweetdeck feed, a Tweet from Enbridge popped up. Given that the default background for Tweetdeck is black, I thought, that Enbridge logo looks very dark.

Enbridge tweet Sept. 20, 2013
Enbridge tweet Sept. 20, 2013

Now since I’ve been monitoring Enbridge tweets since I started this site, normally the company logo is white and stands out against the black of the Tweetdeck feed.

Is it a mistake I wondered?

Or is it a new logo and therefore has Enbridge, I wondered,  “moved to the dark side?”

So I checked the company webpage. It’s a new logo and new web design. In the lead picture, the old logo is clearly visible under the new logo on top.
Enbridge landing page screen grab

For the record here is the new logo and the old one.


new Enbridge logo

Enbridge logo

So I can’t resist reporting, Enbridge has moved to the dark side. 🙂

“Trust me is not good enough,” harsh BC government argument slams Enbridge, rejects Northern Gateway project

The government of British Columbia has filed a harsh assessment of Enbridge Northern Gateway in its final arguments submitted May 31 to the Joint Review Panel—much harsher than the government press release giving notice of the rejection suggests.

“‘Trust me’ is not good enough in this case,” the filing by BC government lawyer Christopher Jones says of Enbridge’s plans to handle any possible disaster from either a pipeline rupture or a tanker spill.

Some of the arguments from the province’s lawyers echo points about the Kitimat Valley raised by Douglas Channel Watch and the Haisla Nation, at one point, pointing directly to evidence from Douglas Channel Watch’s Dave Shannon.

The news release repeats Premier Christy Clark’s five conditions for the Northern Gateway and other projects, putting a positive spin on the much harsher legal argument.

“British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake. “Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”

“We have carefully considered the evidence that has been presented to the Joint Review Panel,” said Lake. “The panel must determine if it is appropriate to grant a certificate for the project as currently proposed on the basis of a promise to do more study and planning after the certificate is granted. Our government does not believe that a certificate should be granted before these important questions are answered.”

The provincial government has established, and maintains, strict conditions in order for British Columbia to consider the construction and operation of heavy-oil pipelines in the province.

  • Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Northern Gateway, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed;
  • World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments;
  • World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines;
  • Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and
  • British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflect the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.

Final argument

In its filing the province tells the JRP:

While the Joint Review Panel (“JRP”) may of course consider other factors in its recommendation, the Province submits that the JRP must accord very significant weight, in the case of this project, to the fact that NG’s plans for terrestrial and marine spill response remain preliminary and that it cannot, today, provide assurance that it will be able to respond effectively to all spills. Given the absence of a credible assurance in this regard, the Province cannot support the approval of or a positive recommendation from the JRP regarding, this project as it was presented to the JRP.

In the alternative, should the JRP recommend approval of the pipeline, the JRP must impose clear, measurable and enforceable conditions that require NG to live up to the commitments it has made in this proceeding.

Hazards from Kitimat’s geoglacial clay

The provincial government identifies a major potential hazard in the Kitimat valley, glacio-marine clay deposits that “threaten the integrity of the pipeline.”

Overall the province appears to accept the arguments from Douglas Channel Watch and other environmental groups that geo hazards along the pipeline route present a significant risk, one perhaps underestimated by Enbridge Northern Gateway.

NG does not dispute that spills from the pipeline may occur. While the project will be new, and built using modern technology, the fact remains that pipeline spills do happen. Indeed, Enbridge had 11 releases greater than 1000 barrels between 2002 and 2012…

The Province has concerns about the assertions NG has made regarding the probability for full-bore releases resulting from geohazards. NG asserts that full-bore spills will be very rare. However, this assertion must be considered in light of the fact that NG’s analysis of the geohazards that the pipeline could face is at a preliminary stage….

The rugged topography of West Central British Columbia is prone to slope failures.
Terrain instability may pose significant challenges for linear development.
Despite these challenging admits that its assessment of existing and potential geohazards along the pipeline route is not complete and that further investigations and more detailed geohazard mapping are required. For instance, although NG acknowledges that the potential presence of glacio-marine clays in the lower Kitimat Valley can threaten the integrity of a pipeline; its report on glacio-marine clay fails to identify a significant area of potential instability that had been previously reported in the relevant literature…

Since all geotechnical hazards have not been identified with the investigations carried out to date, and since comprehensive investigations will not be completed until the detailed design phase, NG has but a rough idea of the mitigation measures that may be employed in order to mitigate the geotechnical hazards that may be encountered…

Spill response

The province’s arguments also indicates that Enbridge Northern Gateway has not done a good enough job regarding spill response, whether from a full bore rupture or a pin hole leak.

it must be remembered that full-bore spills are less frequent than smaller spills, which could still have a significant environmental effect. Indeed, since risk equals consequence times probability, smaller spills could pose a higher risk as they are more frequent. While NG has produced considerable evidence with respect to the likelihood and effects of full-bore spills… the evidence concerning the potential for other spills is limited. While the Province supports assessing the effects of any spill based on a full-bore release, as it would allow for an analysis of the worst-case scenario, focus on full-bore releases should not eliminate consideration of the potential impact of smaller events…

NG stated that [a] table [in the evidence], which includes probabilities for medium sized spills, would be “replaced by. a detailed characterization of each pipeline kilometre and region as part of the ongoing risk assessment work,” but the province says, a later table that “now replaces the concept of large and medium spills”. focussed only on full-bore releases, a relatively rare event.

Similarly, NG also calculated spill return periods for pinhole and greater-than-pinhole events. Taking the figures NG for “greater-than-pinhole” releases results in a spill return figure of 76.7 years. The Province also has concerns about the information that NG has provided in this regard. First, because it focussed on spill events, there is no information about spill size, which, we submit is a critical issue in considering the risk posed by these kinds of events. Second, NG does not include the potential for spills that could occur as a result of “operating and maintenance procedures” that deviate from the norm. Finally, NG assumes that all geotechnical threats would result in a full-bore rupture. This assumption appears to be incorrect…

Premier Christy Clark has, as part of her five conditions, said there must be a world class spill response system. Enbridge responded by saying there will be. The province then turns around and says Enbridge has failed to do prove it.

Because of the potential for spills, and their impact, NG has committed to develop a comprehensive spill response capability. Indeed, NG has stated that it intends to have a “world-class response capability” for the Project. Given the real potential for spills to occur, and the devastating effect of a spill should a significant one take place, the Province submits that NG must show that it would be able to effectively respond to a spill. As set out below, the Province submits that it has failed to do so.

High stream flow, heavy snow at Kitimat

Again, the province appears to accept arguments from Douglas Channel Watch that Enbridge has underestimated the challenges of handling a spill in a remote area. The province also accepts the argument that booms are ineffective in high stream flow in the Kitimat River.

Although it asserts that it will be able to effectively respond to any spill, NG admits that responding to a spill from the pipeline will be challenging. In particular, it admits that a spill into a watercourse at a difficult to access location would present the greatest difficulty for clean-up and remediation…

Many parts of the pipeline will be located in remote areas, located some distance from road networks and population centres. For example, many of the rivers… are identified as remote or having no access. Road access to the pipeline and places where a spill might travel down a watercourse is important to allow for effective spill response…

In some cases, the steepness of the terrain will make responding to spills very challenging. NG acknowledges that the Coast Mountains’ topography is extreme…

As the JRP noted during cross examination by the Province of NG with respect to the Clore River, it has had the opportunity to take a view of the entire route. It will therefore know the steep and rugged terrain through which the pipeline would pass.

The presence of woody debris could also pose a challenge to spill response, requiring a shift of response activities to upstream locations…

If a spill were to occur during a period of high flow conditions, a common occurrence in British Columbia rivers, then some aspects of the response may have to be curtailed, or at least delayed until the high flow event recedes. At certain water velocities, booms become ineffective, and are potentially unsafe to operate.

The presence of heavy snow could also impede access during response operations, requiring use of snowmobiles, snow cats, and helicopters. In the Upper Kitimat and Hoult Creek Valleys, snow accumulation can reach 8-9 metres. However, weather may limit the ability of helicopters to aid in spill response…

Many of these challenges are recognized by NG. In the Preliminary Kitimat River Drainage Area Emergency Preparedness Report (“Kitimat Report”), NG refers to the challenges of winter conditions, avalanches and debris slides, heavy snow, spring melt, Fall freeze-up, patchy ice, and fast-flowing watercourses.

Sinking dilbit

The province also accepts the argument that under some circumstances that diluted bitumen can sink, arguments raised by David Shannon of Douglas Channel Watch.

These challenges are compounded by the fact that in certain conditions diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) can sink in a watercourse. This occurred in the case of Enbridge’s spill in Michigan. This was, as a result, an issue of significant importance to the parties in this proceeding…

The evidence presented by NG in this regard is inconsistent. For example, some evidence it presented suggests that dilbit may sink when it enters water, after a process of weathering; other evidence it has submitted suggests that dilbit will only sink if it combines with sediment. In its response to [a submission by the Haisla Nation] NG states that “If diluted bitumen becomes heavily weathered some oil may sink in fresh water environments.” Similarly, in its response to Dave Shannon’s IR No. 1, NG states that 

Diluted bitumen emulsions will remain buoyant in waters with densities greater than approximately 1.015 g/cc. If the water density drops below approximately 1.015 g/cc,in zones of fresh-water intrusion, weathered and emulsified diluted bitumen products may sink to the depth where the density increases to above 1.015 g/cc.

Similar also is NG’s response to Dr. Weir’s IR No. 2.6, where NG states:

The weathered diluted bitumen would have a density approaching 1.0 g/cc, which indicates that once the diluted bitumen weathers it may be susceptible to sinking in fresh water.

Finally, in the Kitimat Report NG states that:

Examples that may lead to oil not remaining on the water surface include:
• Oils with specific gravities equal to or greater than the receiving medium (fresh- or saltwater)
• Oils that have weathered and, in losing lighter-end fractions, have reached a specific gravity equal to or greater than the receiving water
• Oil that is near the same density as the receiving water and that is characterized as a 3-dimensional flow (non-laminar to turbulent flow such as found in streams, rivers, areas with fast tidal currents, breaking waves)
• Oil with sediment (mixed into oil or adhered to oil droplets)…

…submerged oil may eventually sink with increased weathering, if in receiving water with lower density, or if sufficient sediment is incorporated.

Northern Gateway contradictory

The province’s argument goes on to point more inconsistencies with Northern Gateway’s submission on dilbit in rivers, telling the JRP “In short, what dilbit will do when it enters water remains unclear.”

On the other hand, another NG witness stated that dilbit cannot sink, as this would be contrary to an “immutable fact of physics”. In cross examination, Dr. Horn, Mr. Belore and other witnesses maintained that dilbit will only sink in the presence of suspended solids, or after a long period of weathering.

However, NG’s evidence with respect to the type of sediment that could combine with dilbit to form material that may sink in water is unclear. Dr. Horn testified that “fine grain sediments…provide the greatest amount of surface area which is one of the reasons that oil sank in [Michigan]”. On the other hand, Mr. Belore appeared to suggest that, in the marine context at least, finer sediments reduce the potential for oil to sink as they are lighter. The evidence with respect to the material that may bind to dilbit and contribute to its sinking is unclear…

NG’s views with respect to the flow conditions under which dilbit may sink is also contradictory. On the one hand, it states that “Higher flow rates and increased turbulence typically will entrain more oil into the water column leading to the potential for oil to enter pore spaces in permeable sediments.” On the other, it states that “Oil sinking is unlikely to occur in areas with fast currents…”

Evidence provided by other parties suggests that dilbit may sink when weathered. In particular, Environment Canada’s evidence in this proceeding contrasts sharply with NG’s. For example, Environment Canada states that:

Northern Gateway’s response planning model does not account for sinking oil or for oil suspended particulate matter interactions…For oils with densities close to that of water, like both the diluted bitumen and synthetic crude products, even small amounts of sediment can cause sinking. Environment Canada is concerned that oil sinking and oil-sediment interactions have been
underestimated in the provided scenarios. In the cases of both the Enbridge-Kalamazoo and the Kinder Morgan-Burnaby spills, significant oil-sediment interactions occurred.

The changes to dilbit as it ages in the environment may affect cleanup. Although initially buoyant in water, with exposure to wind and sun, as well as by mixing with water and sediment in the water, the density of dilbit can increase to the point that the oil may sink. Recovery and mitigation options for sunken oils are limited.

Not only has Environment Canada expressed the view that even small amounts of sediment may cause oil to sink, its witness also stated under cross-examination that high velocity rivers may carry high suspended sediment concentrations, and that, at certain times of the year, sediment load could enter the marine environment. Although NG acknowledges that sediment loads and oil-sediment interactions are a critical factor in predicting the behaviour of spilled oil, it has not, in Environment Canada’s opinion, provided a complete baseline data set on sediment loads, despite requests that such data be provided.

While NG has submitted information respecting the laboratory testing of dilbit, an Environment Canada expert testified that tests conducted in a laboratory setting provide only limited information that cannot be relied upon in isolation to predict the fate and behaviour of hydrocarbons spilled into the environment. Instead, information gathered from real spill events must inform the analysis, and consideration must be given to the conditions, including water temperature, suspended sediment concentrations and wind speed, to be encountered in the “real world”.

Environment Canada has also made it very clear that the evidence provided to date by NG does not allow for a full understanding of the behaviour of spilled dilbit. In the opinion of Environment Canada witnesses, the evidence has not provided sufficientclarity with respect to the weathering, evaporation or sedimentation processes dilbit may be subjected to in the environment. Given the unique nature of this product, further research is warranted before one can ascertain whether dilbit will sink or remain on the water surface. Those concerns were echoed by an expert retained by the Gitxaala Nation.

In addition, the evidence of other parties raises the possibility of the need to respond to submerged oil. NUKA research, on behalf of the Haisla Nation, opined that “submission documents overall still grossly underestimate the potential for sunken or submerged oil, particularly for pipeline spills to rivers.” EnviroEmerg Consulting, for the Living Oceans Society summarizes well the uncertainty that remains with respect to the behaviour of oil:

There are no definitive statements in the [Environmental Impact Statement] EIS to explain if bitumen diluted with condensate will emulsify, sink or do both if spilled. The supporting technical data analysis in the EIS is based on laboratory tests. There are no in-situ field tests, empirical studies, nor real incidents to validate these findings. This raises significant uncertainty that current spill response technologies and equipment designed for conventional oil can track and recover the diluted bitumen in temperate marine waters. In essence, the assumption that the diluted bitumen can be recovered on-water has yet to be tested.

In short, what dilbit will do when it enters water remains unclear. NG recognizes this lack of clarity itself. As was stated by one of its witnesses, “it’s extremely difficult to predict the behaviour of this product”.

NG admits that additional research needs to be done with respect to understanding how dilbit behaviour.

The provincial argument concludes:

The Province has serious concerns about the lack of clarity and certainty about what dilbit will do if it were to enter the water, the preliminary and indeed contradictory nature of the evidence with respect to NG’s remediation strategies and actions to address sunken oil, and the fact that its proposed tactics have not been evaluated for use in British Columbia. These factors, taken together, suggest that, at least as of today, NG is not yet prepared to deal with sunken oil in the event there were a spill of dilbit into a British Columbia watercourse. By itself this is a cause for serious concern in relation to the fundamental question in this proceeding, namely whether the JRP should recommend approval of this project. But at the very least, this means that a strong condition must be imposed requiring further research on the behaviour of dilbit.

Spill response only preliminary “All roads are driveable”

The provincial argument says, in italics, that the Northern Gateway’s spill response plans are “only preliminary” and adds Northern Gateway’s plan to provide detail operational plans six months before the beginning of the pipeline operations is not good enough. “It is not possible for NG to assert, nor for the JRP to conclude, that NG will be able to access all those places where a spill may travel, and to respond effectively.”

Despite the challenges to responding to a spill from the pipeline, including the challenge of responding to submerged and sunken oil, NG’s plans for responding to a spill have not yet been developed. NG has committed only to providing its detailed oil spill response plans to the National Energy Board 6 months in advance of operations. In the context of this project, the Province remains very concerned that NG has not yet demonstrated its ability to respond effectively to spills from the pipeline.

When specifically asked “In the absence of that planning…to address the challenges that we’ve been discussing, how is it we are to be confident that Northern Gateway will, in fact, be able to effectively respond to a spill?” NG replied that “There is a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Of particular concern, despite its admission that a spill into a watercourse in a remote location would pose a significant challenge, NG has not yet determined those locations it could access to respond to a spill, including the control points utilized for capturing and recovering oil passing that location. Such access will only be determined, if possible, during detailed planning. At this time, NG also does not know what portion of water bodies would be boat-accessible in the event of a spill. The 2010 Michigan spill, which was the subject of much questioning during the hearing, occurred in a populated area, where there were many potential access locations. This will of course not be the case if a spill were to occur in a remote river in British Columbia.

While NG has prepared a document showing some possible control points that might be used for spill response in the event of a spill in some rivers, NG concedes that its work in this regard is preliminary, and only pertains to some of the control points that would ultimately have to be established. NG helpfully provided additional information to that which was originally filed with respect to the travel distance between pump stations or the terminal and certain potential control points. However, travel times to the control points that have been identified do not take into account mobilization time, and assumes all roads are drivable.

Given the incompleteness of NG’s evidence in this regard, the Province submits that NG cannot currently assert that there would in fact be viable control points where a spill could travel to. In addition, even if accessibility to control points had been fully validated, in order for NG to assert that it could respond effectively to a spill, it would also have to know the means by which personnel and equipment would gain access to respond to oil that had come ashore or sunken to the sediment. Given the preliminary nature of the evidence presented by NG, this is of course not known.

The Province is very concerned that, in the event of a spill, some places where a spill could reach will be inaccessible, and therefore not amenable to spill recovery actions. While NG states that it will be able to access control points at any location along the pipeline, it has simply not provided the evidence in this proceeding to substantiate this assertion. The Province submits that, as of today, it is not possible for NG to assert, nor for the JRP to conclude, that NG will be able to access all those places where a spill may travel, and to respond effectively.

In addition to access, there are a number of other challenges to operating in British
Columbia in respect of which NG has completed only very preliminary work.

• The pipeline could be covered by heavy snow at different times of the year; NG states that it will have to review alternative methods of access to deal with this, but has presented no specific evidence on how this challenge will be addressed.
• NG has not yet developed specific plans about how it would deal with oil recovered from a spill, and has not yet determined disposal locations.
• NG has not yet determined the location or the contents of the equipment caches to be used to respond to spills.
• It has not determined year-round access to the pipeline, which will be evaluated as part of detailed planning.

Kitimat River response

The province takes a harsh look at Northern Gateway’s plan for a response on the Upper Kitimat River and Hunter Creek.

Similarly, the Province is concerned about the ability of NG to respond to a spill in the Upper Kitimat Valley. When asked by the Douglas Channel Watch

“…in the context of the Upper Kitimat Valley, does this mean because of the steepness of the terrain and limited road access to the river, that containment at some locations at the source will be impossible, and the majority of your efforts will be at the first accessible locations downstream?”

NG was only able to reply that:

“again it depends on the specific conditions. But as Dr. Taylor indicated, in the development of the response plans we would need to look at various scenarios, various times of year, develop plans so that it would identify the appropriate response locations at those times.”

NG’s targeted spill response time of 6-12 hours needs to be set against the reality that, in the case of a watercourse spill, oil may travel many kilometres downstream while NG is still mobilizing. In this proceeding NG has provided considerable information with respect to how far and fast oil can travel in a watercourse. For example, with a spill into Hunter Creek, NG has stated:

Based on water velocities, a release at this location could reach the Kitimat River estuary 60 km downstream within four to ten hours, depending on river discharge.

Dr. Horn has indicated that these figures are very conservative, and that the actual times to reach Kitimat would be a longer period. However, no other definitive evidence on these times was presented by NG.

Enbridge doesn’t learn from its mistakes

The provincial argument then goes on to say, again in italics, Enbridge does not follow procedures or learn from mistakes and concludes “while NG asserts that its spill detection systems will be world-class, it has not yet chosen to adopt spill detection technologies that would achieve that objective.”

The provincial argument goes over Enbridge’s spill record in detail, including the Marshall, Michigan spill which was harshly criticized by the US National Transportation Safety Board.

Concerns about NG’s inability to respond to a spill are magnified by Enbridge’s conduct with respect to the spill which took place in Michigan. NG concedes that, in that case, there were procedures in place that were not followed. NG asserts that it now has in place a number of “golden rules”, including that whenever there is a doubt with respect to whether the spill detection system has detected a leak, the pipeline must be shut down. However, NG concedes that this rule was in place before the Michigan spill; it self-evidently was not followed. In fact, the rule under which Enbridge would shut down its pipeline system within 10 minutes of an abnormal occurrence which could be immediately analyzed was put into place following a spill in 1991. At that time, similar commitments were made indicating that procedures would change and that a spill of that nature wouldn’t take place again….

despite the fact that the relevant technologies had been in existence for some
10 years, and despite the existence of crack-related failures that led to the development of such technologies, Enbridge had failed to put in place a program that would have detected the Marshall spill

The province wraps up the response saying by telling the JRP:

In short, if NG is relying on its ability to respond effectively to a spill for a positive recommendation from the JRP, then it must show that it will in fact have that ability. The Province submits that NG has not shown that ability in this proceeding.

The Province submits that requiring NG to show now that it will in fact have the ability to respond effectively to a spill is particularly important because there will be no subsequent public process in which that ability can be probed and tested. NG has pointed out that its oil spill response plans will be provided to the NEB for review, and has committed to a third party audit of its plans. However, it also acknowledges that there will be no means by which those plans could be tested through a public process.

On the pipeline project, BC concludes

The Province submits that the evidence on the record does not support NG’s contention that it will have a world-class spill response capability in place. The challenges posed by the pipeline route, the nature of the product being shipped, the conceptual nature of its plans to date and Enbridge’s track record mean that the Province is not able to support the project’s approval at this time. The Province submits that its concerns in this regard should be seriously considered by the JRP as it considers the recommendation it will be making to the federal government.

EPA Orders Enbridge to Perform Additional Dredging to Remove Oil from Kalamazoo River

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Enbridge to dredge the Kalamazoo River to remove addition bitumen.

The EPA issued this news release

CHICAGO (March 14, 2013) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued an administrative order that requires Enbridge to do additional dredging in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River to clean up oil from the company’s July 2010 pipeline spill. EPA’s order requires dredging in sections of the river above Ceresco Dam, upstream of Battle Creek, and in the Morrow Lake Delta.

EPA has repeatedly documented the presence of recoverable submerged oil in the sections of the river identified in the order and has determined that submerged oil in these areas can be recovered by dredging. The dredging activity required by EPA’s order will prevent submerged oil from migrating to downstream areas where it will be more difficult or impossible to recover.

Enbridge has five days to respond to the order and 15 days to provide EPA with a work plan. Dredging is anticipated to begin this spring and is not expected to result in closures of the river. EPA’s order also requires Enbridge to maintain sediment traps throughout the river to capture oil outside the dredge areas.

On July 26, 2010, Enbridge reported that a 30-inch oil pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. Heavy rains caused the spilled oil to travel 35 miles downstream before it was contained.


New US pipeline safety report finds more problems with Enbridge, problems also found in other big pipeline companies

Leak detection report coverA new draft report for the U.S. Congress from the United States Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration takes new aim at Enbridge for failures in its pipeline leak detection and response system.

Not that the PHMSA is singling out Enbridge, the report is highly critical of leak detection systems on all petroleum and natural gas pipeline companies, saying as far as the United States is concerned, the current pipeline standards are inadequate.

The release of the “Leak Detection Report” written by Kiefner & Associates, Inc (KAI) a consulting firm based in Worthington, Ohio, comes at a critical time, just as Enbridge was defending how it detects pipeline leaks before the Joint Review Panel questioning hearings in Prince George, where today Enbridge executives were under cross-examination by lawyers for the province of British Columbia on how the leak detection system works.

In testimony on Wednesday, October 12, Enbridge engineers told the Joint Review Panel that the company’s pipelines are world-class and have a many prevention and detection systems.

Northern Gateway president John Carruthers testifed there is no way to eliminate all the risks but the company was looking for the best way of balancing benefits against the risk.

However, the KAI report points out that so far, all pipeline company cost-benefit analysis is limited by a short term, one to five year point of view, rather than looking at the entire lifecycle of a pipeline.

Two Enbridge spills, one the well-known case in Marshall Michigan which saw bitumen go into the Kalamazoo River and a second in North Dakota, both in 2010, are at the top of the list in the study for PHMSA by the consulting firm.

On the Marshall, Michigan spill the KAI report goes over and adds to many of the criticisms of Enbridge in the National Transportation Safety Report in July which termed the company’s response like the “Keystone Kops.”

The second spill, in Neche, North Dakota, which, unlike the Marshall spill, has had little attention from the media, is perhaps equally damning, because while Enbridge’s detection systems worked in that case–the KAI report calls it a “text book shutdown”– there was still a spill of 158,928 gallons (601,607 litres) of crude oil, the sixth largest hazardous liquid release reported in the United States [between 2010 and 2012] because Enbridge “did not plan adequately for containment.”

(The KAI report also examines problems with natural gas pipelines, including one by TransCanada Northern Border line at Campbell, Wyoming in February 2011. Northwest Coast Energy News will report on the natural gas aspects of the report in a future posting.)

The highly technical, 270-page draft report was released on September 28, as Enbridge was still under heavy criticism from the US National Transportation Safety Board report on the Marshall, Michigan spill and was facing penalties from the PHMSA for both the Marshall spill and a second in Ohio.

Looking at overall pipeline problem detection, KAI says the two standard industry pipeline Leak Detection Systems or LDS didn’t work very well. Between 2010 and 2012, the report found that Computational Pipeline Monitoring or CPMs caught just 20 per cent of leaks. Another system, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition or SCADAs caught 28 per cent.
Even within those acronym systems, the KAI report says major problem is a lack of industry standards. Different companies use different detector and computer systems, control room procedures and pipeline management.

The report also concludes that the pipeline industry as a whole depends far too much on internal detectors, both for economic reasons and because that’s what the industry has always done. External detectors, the report says, have a better track record in alerting companies to spills.

A significant number of spills are also first reported by the public or first responders, rather than through the pipeline company system and as KAI says of Enbridge, “Operators should not rely on the public to tell them a pipeline has ruptured.”

The consultants also say there are far too many false alarms in spill detection systems.

Although the KAI report concentrates on the United States, its report on Enbridge does raise serious questions about how the company could detect a pipeline breach or spill in the rugged northern British Columbia wilderness where the Northern Gateway Pipeline would be built, if approved by the federal government.

The report comes after the United States Congress passed The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 3, 2012. The law called on a new leak detection study to be submitted to Congress that examines the technical limitations of current leak detection systems, including the ability of the systems to detect ruptures and small leaks that are ongoing or intermittent. The act also calls on the US Department of Transportation to find out what can be done to foster development of better technologies and economically feasible ways of detecting pipeline leaks. The final report must be submitted to Congress by January 3, 2013.

(The draft report does note in some ways, Canadian standards for detecting pipeline leaks are better than those in the United States. For example, Canada requires some pipeline testing every year, the United States every five years. It also finds European pipeline monitoring regulations also surpass those in the United States).

The spills studied in the report all found weaknesses in one or more of those three areas: people, company procedures and the technology. It appears that the industry agrees, at least in principle, with executives telling the consultants:

The main identified technology gaps – including those identified by operators – include: reduction or management of false alarms; applicable technical standards and certifications; and value / performance indicators that can be applied across technologies and pipelines.

The report echoes many of the findings of the US National Transportation Safety Board in its examination of the Enbridge Marshall, Michigan spill but it applies to all pipeline companies, noting:

Integration using procedures is optimal when it is recognized that alarms from the technology are rarely black-and-white or on/off situations. Rather, at a minimum, there is a sequence: leak occurrence; followed by first detection; followed by validation or confirmation of a leak; followed by the initiation of a shutdown sequence. The length of time that this sequence should take depends on the reliability of the first detection and the severity of the consequences of the release. Procedures are critical to define this sequence carefully – with regard to the technology used, the personnel involved and the consequences – and carefully trained Personnel are needed who understand the overall system, including technologies and procedures.

We note that there is perhaps an over-emphasis of technology in LDS. A recurring theme is that of false alarms. The implication is that an LDS is expected to perform as an elementary industrial automation alarm, with an on/off state and six-sigma reliability. Any alarm that does not correspond to an actual leak is, with this thinking, an indicator of a failure of the LDS system.

Instead, multiple technical studies confirm that far more thought is required in dealing with leak alarms. Most technologies infer the potential presence of a leak via a secondary physical effect, for example an abnormal pressure or a material imbalance. These can often be due to multiple other causes apart from a leak.

The report takes a critical look at the culture of all pipeline companies which divides problems into leaks, ruptures and small seeps. Under both pipeline practice and the the way problems are reported to the PHMSA in the US a “rupture is a situation where the pipeline becomes inoperable.” While a rupture means that a greater volume of petroleum liquid or natural gas is released, and is a higher priority than a leak or seep, the use of language may mean that there is a lower priority given to those leaks and seeps than the crisis created by a rupture.

(Environmental groups in British Columbia have voiced concerns about the cumulative affect of small seeps from the Enbridge Northern Gateway that would be undetectable under heavy snow pack either by an internal system or by external observation)

Overall, the report finds serious flaws to the way pipeline companies are conducting leak detection systems at the moment, including:

  • Precisely the same technology, applied to two different pipelines, can have very different results.
  • Leak Detection Systems do not have performance measures that can be used universally across all pipelines. Compounding the problem are different computer systems where software, program configuration and parameter selection all contribute, in unpredictable ways, to overall performance.
  • Many performance measures present conflicting objectives. For example, leak detection systems that are highly sensitive to small amounts of lost hydrocarbons are also prone to generating more false alarms.
  • The performance of a leak detection system depends critically on the quality of the engineering design, care with installation, continuing maintenance and periodic testing.
  • Even though an internal technology may rely upon simple, basic principles, it is in fact, complex system that requires robust metering, robust SCADA and telecommunications, and a robust computer to perform the calculations. Each of these subsystems is individually complex.
  • Near the inlet and the outlet of the pipeline a leak leads to little or no change in pressure. Flow rates and pressures near any form of pumping or compression will generally be insensitive to a downstream leak
  • Differences in any one of these factors can have a dramatic impact on the ultimate value of a leak detection system.

The report goes on to  say:

There is no technical reason why several different leak detection methods can not be implemented at the same time. In fact, a basic engineering robustness principle calls for at least two methods that rely on entirely separate physical principles.

The report strongly recommends that pipeline companies take a closer look at external leak detection systems. Even though the US Environmental Protection Agency began recommending the use of external detection as far back as 1988, the companies have resisted due to the cost of retrofitting the legacy pipeline network. (Of course if the pipeline companies had started retrofitting with external detectors in 1988 they would be now 24 years into the process).

KAI says:

  • External leak detection is both very simple – relying upon routinely installed external sensors that rely upon at most seven physical principles – and also confusing, since there is a wide range of packaging, installation options, and operational choices to be considered.
  • External leak detection sensors depend critically on the engineering design of their deployment and their installation.
  • External sensors have the potential to deliver sensitivity and time to detection far ahead of any internal system.
  • Most technologies can be retrofitted to existing pipelines. In general, the resistance to adopting external technologies is, nevertheless, that fieldwork on a legacy pipeline is relatively expensive.
  • The report goes on to identify major bureaucratic roadblocks within pipeline companies. Like many other big corporations, walls exist that prevent the system from working well
  • A particular organizational difficulty with leak detection is identifying who “owns” the leak detection system on a pipeline. A technical manager or engineer in charge is typically appointed, but is rarely empowered with global budgetary, manpower or strategic responsibilities. Actual ownership of this business area falls variously to metering, instrumentation and control, or IT.

The report calls for better internal standards at pipeline companies since with leak detection “one size does not necessarily fit all”.

It also notes that “flow metering is usually a central part of most internal leak detection systems,” but adds “flow meter calibration is by far the most laborious part of an internal system’s maintenance.

Also, the central computer and software technology usually has maintenance requirements far greater than most industrial automation and need special attention.”

While a company may do a cost benefit analysis of its leak detection system and risk reduction system it will generally emphasize the costs of the performance and engineering design of the leak detection system, the companies usually place less emphasis on the benefits of a robust system, especially the long term benefits.

At present the pipeline companies look at the benefit of leak detection as a reduction in risk exposure, or asset liability, “a hard, economic definition… understood by investors.” But the report adds that leak detection systems have a very long lifetime and over that life cycle, the cost-benefit approaches the reduction in asset liability caused by the system, when divided by annual operational costs. However, since pipeline companies budget on a one to five year system the long term benefit of robust, and possibly expensive spill detection is not immediately apparent.


The consultants studied 11 US oil spills, the top two with the greatest volume were from Enbridge pipelines. The others were from TE Products Pipeline, Dixie Pipeline, Sunoco, ExxonMobil, Shell, Amoco, Enterprise Products, Chevron and Magellan Pipeline. Not all US spills were used in the KAI report, the 11 were chosen for availability of data and documentation.

The largest spill in the KAI study was the pipeline rupture in Michigan at 843,444 gallon (3,158,714 litres) which has been the subject of continuing media, investigative and regulatory scrutiny. The second spill in North Dakota, has up to now received very little attention from the media. That will likely change once the US Congress gets the final report. Even though the Neche, North Dakota spill, has been described as “text book case” of a pipeline shutdown, there was still a large volume of oil released.

Marshall, Michigan spill

On the Marshall, Michigan spill that sent bitumen into the Kalamazoo River the report first goes over the facts of the 843,444 gallon spill and the subsequent release of a highly critical report from the US National Transportation Safety Board. It then looks at the failures of Enbridge’s detection system from the point of view mandated for the report to Congress:

The pipeline was shutting down when the ruptured occurred. Documentation indicates that a SCADA alarm did sound coincident with the most likely time of the rupture. It was dismissed. The line was shut down for around 10 hrs and crude oil would have drained from the line during this time.

On pipeline start up, alarms in the control room for the ruptured pipeline sounded. They were dismissed. This was repeated two more times. The pipeline was shut down when the control room was notified of the discharge of the crude oil by a member of the public. The time to shut down the pipeline is not relevant here because of the 17 hours that elapsed after the rupture occurred.

The review identified issues at Enbridge relevant to this Leak Detection Study:

1. Instrumentation on a pipeline that informs a controller what is happening to the pipeline must be definitive in all situations.
2. However, the instrumentation did provide warnings which went unheeded by controllers.
3. Instrumentation could be used to prevent a pump start up.
4. Operators should not rely on the public to tell them when a pipeline has ruptured.
5. Pipeline controllers need to be fully conversant with instrumentation response to different operations performed on the pipeline.
6. If alarms can be cancelled there is something wrong with the instrumentation feedback loop to the controller. This is akin to the low fuel warning on a car being turned off and ignored. The pipeline controller is part of an LDS and failure by a controller means the LDS has failed even if the instrumentation is providing correct alarms.
7. If the first SCADA alarm had been investigated, up to 10 hours of pipeline drainage to the environment might have been avoided. If the second alarm had been investigated, up to 7 hours of pumping oil at almost full capacity into the environment might have been avoided.
8. CPM systems are often either ignored or run at much higher tolerances during pipeline start ups and shutdowns, so it is probable that the CPM was inoperative or unreliable. SCADA alarms, on the other hand, should apply under most operating conditions.

Neche, North Dakota spill

At approximately 11:37 pm. local time, on January 8, 2010, a rupture occurred on Enbridge’s Line 2, resulting in the release of approximately 3000 barrels or 158,928 gallons of crude oil approximately 1.5 miles northeast of the town of Neche, North Dakota, creating the sixth largest spill in the US during the study period.

As the report notes, in this case, Enbridge’s detection system worked:

At 11:38 pm., a low-suction alarm initiated an emergency station cascade shutdown. At 11:40 pm., the Gretna station valve began closing. At 11:44 pm., the Gretna station was isolated. At 11:49 pm., Line 2 was fully isolated from the Gretna to Donaldson pump stations.

Documentation indicates a rapid shut down on a low suction alarm by the pipeline controller. From rupture to shut down is recorded as taking 4 minutes. The length of pipeline isolated by upstream and downstream remotely controlled valves was 220,862 feet. The inventory for this length of line of 26-inch diameter is 799,497 gallons. The release amount was around 20 per cent of the isolated inventory when the pipeline was shut down.

The orientation of the 50-inch long rupture in the pipe seam is not known. The terrain and elevation of the pipeline is not known. The operator took around 2 hours and 40 minutes to arrive on site. It is surmised that the rupture orientation and local terrain along with the very quick reactions by the pipeline controller may have contributed to the loss of around 20 per cent of the isolated inventory.

The controller was alerted by the SCADA. Although a CPM system was functional the time of the incident it did not play a part in detecting the release event. It did provide confirmation.

But the KAI review identified a number of issues, including the fact in item (7) Enbridge did not plan for for containment and that containment systems were “under-designed.”

1. This release is documented as a text book shut down of a pipeline based on a SCADA alarm.
2. The LDS did not play a part in alerting the pipeline controller according to
documentation. However, leak detection using Flow/Pressure Monitoring via SCADA
worked well.
3. Although a textbook shut down in 4 minutes is recorded, a large release volume still occurred.
4. The release volume of 158,928 gallons of crude oil is the sixth largest hazardous liquid release reported between January 1, 2010 and July 7, 2012.
5. The length of pipeline between upstream and downstream isolation valves is long at 41.8 miles.
6. If not already performed, the operator should review potential release volumes based on ruptures taking place at different locations on the isolated section.
7. The success of a leak detection system includes planning for the entire process: detection through shutdown through containment. In this case, the operator did not plan adequately for containment so that although the SCADA leak detection technology, the controller and the procedures worked well, the containment systems (isolation valves) were under-designed and placed to allow a very large spill.”



 KAI Draft report on Leak Detection Systems at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration website


A lesson for BC: Michigan 911 system failed during the Kalamazoo spill, NTSB says

The 911 system failed during the 2010 Marshall, Michigan, Enbridge pipeline breach, according to the full report in the incident released by the US National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB report says the 911 operators in Michigan dismissed eight calls reporting gas or petroleum odours over a period of 14 hours between the initial report of a bad odour and the actual discovery of diluted bitumen polluting Talmadge Creek.

The report also says the local firefighters were unfamiliar at that point with potential problems from a bitumen pipeline as opposed to a leak of a consumer natural gas pipeline.

Although the NTSB report puts most of the onus on an inadequate Enbridge “Public Awareness Program” (PAP) which failed to familiarize first responders to potential problems, the report raises questions whether British Columbia, especially the north, is properly prepared for all the energy development that is occurring. Whether or not the Enbridge Northern Gateway project proceeds, there are three active and possibly as many as three or four planned liquified natural gas projects for the northwest, ongoing exploration and production in the northeast and the proposed Kinder Morgan expansion in the lower mainland.

The NTSB says that Sunday, July 25, 2010, at 5:58 pm. EDT, a segment of a 30 inch (7.62 cm) diameter pipeline (Line 6B) operated by Enbridge ruptured in a wetland in Marshall, Michigan. The rupture occurred during the last stages of a pipeline shutdown planned by Enbridge. The leak was not discovered or addressed for over 17 hours, largely due to problems in the Enbridge control room in Edmonton.

During the time lapse, the NTSB says, Enbridge twice pumped additional oil (81 percent of the total release) into Line 6B during two pipeline start ups; the total release was estimated to be 843,444 gallons or 3.192 million litres of crude oil. The oil saturated the surrounding wetlands and flowed into the Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

According to the NTSB time line, at 8:56 pm., Michigan Gas Utilities dispatched a senior service technician after residents reported a natural gas odour. At 9:25 pm. on July 25, a local resident called the Calhoun County 911 dispatch:

I was just at the airport in Marshall and drove south on Old 27 [17 Mile Road]
and drove back north again and there’s a very, very, very strong odour, either
natural gas or maybe crude oil or something, and because the wind’s coming out
of the north, you can smell it all the way up to the tanks, right across from where
the airport’s at, and then you can’t smell it anymore.

By 9:32 pm., the Marshall City Fire Department had been dispatched in response to the 9:25 pm. call to 911. The 911 dispatcher told the responders there was a report of a bad smell of natural gas near the airport. The responding firefighters were also dispatched. The firefighters checked pipelines and industrial building near the airport. “using a combustible gas indicator” to try to locate the origin of the odour, but did not detect anything.

NTSB map of first responders at Kalamazoo spill
A map from the NTSB report showing where the fire department responded to the reports of a gas smell at Marshall, MIchigan, and the location of the actual pipeline break. (NTSB)

The NTSB says the service technician from Michigan Gas Utilities “crossed paths with some of the fire department personnel” but found no evidence of a gas leak.

The fire department personnel departed the scene at 10:54 pm. to return to the station.

The NTSB report says: “ a combustible gas indicator measures percentage of the lower explosive limit, it likely would not detect the oil unless it was very close to the source.”

At 11:33 pm, the area’s 911 system received the first of the seven additional calls when an employee at a business called to report a natural gas odour.

The 911 dispatcher told the caller that the fire department had already responded
to calls in the area, and no more personnel were dispatched.

A map of the incident response by the NTSB shows that the area near the airport where the firefighters responded was actually some distance from the pipeline rupture.

Over the next 14 hours, the NTSB says, 911 received seven more calls reporting strong natural gas or petroleum odours in the same vicinity. “The 911 dispatcher repeatedly informed the callers that the fire department had been dispatched to investigate the reported odours.”

Enbridge had been working on restarting the pipeline all night. In Edmonton, at 10:16 am, the Enbridge control room spoke to the regional manager based in Chicago to send someone to
walk along the pipeline, upstream and downstream of the Marshall pumping station.

According to the NTSB, the Chicago regional manager replied, “I wouldn’t think so. If it’s right at Marshall—you know, it seems like there’s something else going wrong either with the computer or with the instrumentation. …you lost column and things go haywire, right?” He went on to say, “…I’m not convinced. We haven’t had any phone calls. I mean it’s perfect weather out here—if it’s a rupture someone’s going to notice that, you know and smell it.” The Chicago regional manager told shift lead C1 that he was okay with the control centre starting Line 6B again.

At 11:17 am, a caller from a second gas utility, Consumers Energy, called the Enbridge emergency line telling the control room: “I work for Consumers Energy[30] and I’m in Marshall. There’s oil getting into the creek and I believe it’s from your pipeline. I mean there’s a lot. We’re getting like 20 gas leak calls and everything.”

At 11:18 am Enbridge closed the remote valves sealing off the rupture site within a 2.95-mile section. By 11:20 am., the shift lead had called the Chicago regional manager to tell him about the notification. By 11:37 am., another Consumers Energy employee notified 911 about the crude oil leak in a creek near Division Drive.

The Fredonia Township Fire Department was dispatched by the 911 centre shortly after the call. At 11:41 am., the Edmonton control centre received confirmation from an Enbridge crossing coordinator located at the Marshall pipeline maintenance shop confirming the oil on the ground.

The NTSB says:

The 911 operators repeatedly informed the callers that the fire department had been dispatched to investigate the issue, but the 911 operators did not contact the pipeline operator or advise the public of health and safety risks. The 911 operators never dispatched the fire department in response to the subsequent calls even though these calls occurred over several hours, indicating an ongoing problem. The actions of both the first responders and the 911 operators are consistent with a phenomenon known as confirmation bias,128 in which decision makers search for evidence consistent with their theories or decisions, while discounting contradictory evidence. Although there was evidence available to the first responders that something other than natural gas was causing noticeable odours in the Marshall area, they discounted that evidence, largely because it contradicted their own findings of no natural gas in the area. Similarly, the 911 operators, with the evidence from the first responders of no natural gas in the area, discounted subsequent calls regarding the strong odours in the Marshall area. Those calls were inconsistent with their own views that the problem causing the odours was either nonexistent or had been resolved.

The NTSB report then says:

Although Enbridge had provided training to emergency responders in the Marshall area in February 2010, the firefighters’ actions showed a lack of awareness of the nearby crude oil pipeline: they did not search along the Line 6B right-of-way, and they did not call Enbridge. The NTSB concludes that had the firefighters discovered the ruptured segment of Line 6B and called Enbridge, the two start ups of the pipeline might not have occurred and the additional volume might not have been pumped.

The NTSB reviewed Enbridge’s PAP, which was intended to inform the affected public,
emergency officials, and public officials about pipelines and facilitate their ability to recognize
and respond to a pipeline rupture.

The report says:

Although RP 1162 requires operators to communicate with audiences every 1 to 3 years, Enbridge mailed its public awareness materials to all audiences annually. However, even with more frequent mailings, this accident showed that emergency officials and the public lacked actionable knowledge.

The NTSB goes on to say:

Public knowledge of pipeline locations and the hazards associated with the materials
transported is critical for successful recognition and reporting of releases, as well as the safe response to pipeline ruptures. The transportation of hazardous materials by pipeline is unlike hazardous materials transportation by railroad or highway because a pipeline is a permanent fixture. A pipeline presents a unique challenge to awareness because it is often buried. When pipeline releases occur, a properly educated public can be the first to recognize and report the emergency.

A survey quoted by the NTSB says that of those who responded in the United States. only 23 percent of the affected public and 47 percent of emergency officials responded that they were “very well informed” about pipelines in their community.

The NTSB says Enbridge failed to properly conduct and monitor its public awareness program and management’s “review of its PAP was ineffective in identifying and correcting deficiencies. The NTSB further concludes that had Enbridge operated an effective PAP, local emergency response agencies would have been better prepared to respond to early indications of the rupture and may have been able to locate the crude oil and notify Enbridge before control centre staff tried to start the line.”

In May 2011, Enbridge revised its public awareness plan and created a public awareness
committee, but just months later, in July 2011, the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration conducted an audit of Enbridge’s plans and identified several
deficiencies in the company’s program evaluation and effectiveness reviews and required that
Enbridge correct the deficiencies.

Overall, the report says:

Although Enbridge and PHMSA have taken these actions, the NTSB is concerned that
pipeline operators do not provide emergency officials with specific information about their pipeline systems. The brochures that Enbridge mailed did not identify its pipeline’s location. Instead, the brochures directed the audiences to pipeline markers and to PHMSA’s National Pipeline Mapping System. In the NTSB’s 2011 report of the natural gas transmission pipeline rupture and fire in San Bruno, California, the NTSB made the following safety recommendation to PHMSA:

Require operators of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines and
hazardous liquid pipelines to provide system-specific information about their
pipeline systems to the emergency response agencies of the communities and
jurisdictions in which those pipelines are located. This information should include
pipe diameter, operating pressure, product transported, and potential impact

The report concludes:

The NTSB recommends that the International Association of Fire Chiefs  and the National Emergency Number Association  inform their members about the circumstances of the Marshall, Michigan, pipeline accident and urge their members to aggressively and diligently gather from pipeline operators system-specific information about the pipeline systems in their communities and jurisdictions.

In Canada, the National Energy Board, which is responsible for overseeing pipeline operations did inspect the Enbridge control room after the NTSB report.

The NEB, of course, has nothing to do with the 911 system.

RCMP North District
RCMP map showing the extent of British Columbia’s “North District.” (RCMP)

One question for northern British Columbia is how prepared is the 911 system to handle a major pipeline incident now or in the future. For police and fire, the RCMP communications system must cover all of “North District” from Prince George. (The RCMP did not return a phone call requesting information on 911 training and procedures)

For BC Ambulance the dispatch centre is in Kamloops.

Fire departments in northwest British Columbia, so far, have had minimal training in potential pipeline problems, like the fire department in Michigan, enough to detect and deal with consumer and local industrial natural gas systems. It’s clear that the province of British Columbia, if it is going to promote liquified natural gas as a foundation of a new provincial economy, it must plan and budget for a major upgrade to the 911 system, with a new police, fire and ambulance dispatch centre.






Enbridge faces $68,000 fine for not inspecting pipeline branch in Ohio

Enbridge is facing a new penalty from the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration for not inspecting a pipeline branch in Ohio and Michigan. The decision by the PHMSA comes just after a couple of days after the agency acknowledged that Enbridge had paid the civil penalty for the Marshall, Michigan oil spill with a wire transfer to the US Treasury of $3,699,200 on August 12. It was the Marshall pipeline breach and spill that led to bitumen entering the Kalamazoo River.

The new proposed penalty is much lower, just $68,000. It relates to the PHMSA inspection of Enbridge’s Toledo pipeline between July 12 and July 15, 2010.

The PHMSA says it found three alleged violations of federal pipeline safety regulations.

As well as the proposed civil penalty of $68,000, Enbridge Toledo is required to submit past records for inspections of subsequent overpressure safety devices and out-of-service tanks
The agency lists the violations as:

1. Failure to adequately inspect the right-of-way at a mainline valve location in Toledo as required by 49 CFR §195.412.
No proposed penalty — Warning Item.
1. Exceeding the maximum interval for inspection of 12 overpressure safety devices as required by 49 CFR §195.428.
Proposed penalty is $39,000 + PCO.
1. Exceeding the maximum interval for API 653 internal inspections of two breakout tanks located at Stockbridge, MI as required by 49 CFR §195.432.
Proposed penalty is $29,600 + PCO.

Enbridge can, if it wishes, challenge the NOPV (Notice of Possible Violation) in court.  In the case of the original Marshall, Michigan, spill NOPV, Enbridge did not challenge the findings of the PHMSA and paid the penalty.

The new document sent to Enbridge by David Barrett, PHMSA Director, Central Region says that the company failed to perform internal inspections or establish a corrosion rate for the bottom plates of its tanks within the 10 year period as required by US regulations. It also says Enbridge failed to demonstrate that they had established a basis for the corrosion rate for the tank bottoms and exceeded the 10 year maximum internal inspection interval for unknown corrosion rates.

Additionally, Enbridge did not have similar service experience, or procedures to apply similar service experience available to make this inspection interval determination.

The PHMSA also says that Enbridge Enbridge failed to inspect its overpressure safety devices at intervals not exceeding 15 months, but at least once each calendar year. The inspection intervals exceeded the maximum 15 month interval by 14-24 days for the overpressure safety devices listed int the order.

The compliance order calls for Enbridge to submit documentation of all inspections performed on
each of the tanks and overpressure devices listed in the PHMSA order from 2010 to present. Enbridge has to internally inspect each of the tanks and to submit to the PHMSA documentation on the “safety improvement costs” needed to comply with the order.

As for the Marshall, Michigan spill, while Enbridge promptly paid the civil penalty, the PHMSA order notes

This Order does not resolve any existing or potential civil or criminal liability that Enbridge may have for any other violations of the federal Pipeline Safety Laws, or any regulations or orders issued thereunder, not specifically enumerated herein. Further, this Order does not resolve any existing or potential civil or criminal liability that Enbridge may have for violations ofany other federal laws arising from or otherwise related to the events or conduct giving rise to this Order or
to the consequences or damages resulting from the Failure.

Link: PHMSA Inspection of Enbridge (Toledo) Pipeline Results in NOPV and Civil Penalty

PHMSA Final Order Marshall Michigan spill PDF