Enbridge's 2010 spill of over 4 million barrels in Michigan - still not cleaned up

Enbridge Admits There Will Be Spills


Enbridge is proposing two pipelines to Kitimat BC to take Tar Sands gunk (more politely “bitumen”) to tankers who at 300 per year will take it to China as is, or to the United States for refining, thence China.
Today I want to deal with the pipelines only. The horrible consequences of tankers on our coast are for another column.
First off, there is no question that there will be leaks and that any leak will be serious and in a remote area. The lines will cross over 800 rivers and streams, all fish bearing – three of which are important salmon spawning rivers.
Two questions arise. When there’s a spill somewhere in the heart of wilderness, how long does it take to find it and, once found, what can you do about it?
The answer is you don’t know and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Here is the interesting point – in their promotional materials, Enbridge expressly admits that there will be spills because they talk not of eliminating leaks but of “managing” them.
That last line is critical because it’s Enbridge’s confession that they cannot prevent spills – in fact the confession is certified by this release called Enbridge Line 6B Response, wherein Enbridge talks about “risks”, opening with this:

Because of their location and the products they carry, pipelines may come in contact with water, bacteria and various chemicals, all of which can corrode steel. Both the interior and exterior of the line are potentially subject to corrosion. We combat [not eliminate – my comment -RM] corrosion by:

  • using high-quality materials and anti-corrosion coatings
  • scheduling regular monitoring and inline inspections to check for corrosion
  • scheduling excavation and repair programs identified by inline inspections
  • using cathodic protection (a low level electrical current) to inhibit corrosion of underground pipelines
  • using modelling tools to predict corrosion growth rates along pipelines
  • using inline devices known as “pigs” to clean and inspect pipelines from the inside
  • using specialized corrosion inhibitors within the pipeline to address internal corrosion”

Thus the candid admission that there will be spills.

Under Managing Stress Corrosion and Cracking, Enbridge says:

Stress corrosion cracking (SCC) is a crack initiation and growth process that can occur in steel pipelines. Research has shown that SCC is caused by a number of factors, including pipe material, stress and the environment surrounding the pipe. SCC typically occurs on the exterior of the pipe. This type of cracking has the potential to penetrate the steel and cause a pipeline break.

You will note that there is no action to eliminate stress corrosion

Under Setting Leak Reduction Targets And Performance Goals: ”
We believe that pipeline safety and reliability begin with prevention. This means recognizing conditions that have been known to cause failures in the past – then working to minimize the risk.”

Again, Enbridge does not talk about eliminating the “risk” but managing it!
This release confirms what The Common Sense Canadian has been saying all along: spills from pipelines are not “risks” at all but dead certainties.

There is more to it than this. Throughout the debate there has been no mention of outside causes such as terrorism or vandalism. Think on that a moment – 1070 km of dangerous Tar Sands gunk over a wilderness area and no one is considering these threats!

If there is a leak from any reason, how does Enbridge respond? How do they find the problem and once having found it, how do they get to it? Moreover, how do they get heavy equipment to the site, and once there, what the hell do they do about it?

A good example of how Enbridge handles spills is found in the spill in July 2010 in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, a highly populated area. It took several days to get to the spill and in nearly 18 months Enbridge has not come close to cleaning it up!

In fact it’s not possible to clean up oil spills – the Exxon Valdes spill in 1989 is still not cleaned up.

No matter what is said, and by Enbridge’s confession, Pipeline ruptures cannot be stopped but are dead certainties, the only question being the damage done. In our case, by the nature of the location the resultant spills will create appalling, ongoing and long-term consequences.

We simply cannot let this happen.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

34 thoughts on “Enbridge Admits There Will Be Spills

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  2. enJanet Holder (Enbridge Inc. ),in her recent full page ad in the Vancouver Sun asked that invitees ‘Join the Conversation’ but be ‘civil’,etc…But after reading all the ‘rules’ for responding (hilarious stuff) I realized that my silly little comments would be deleted tout de suite before they ever reached Enbridge’s CEO ,Patrick Daniel or Janet Holder…how naive …so much for joining ‘the conversation’!….live and learn…I must keep in mind that ‘big oil’ has it’s own rules for communicating with the peasants!ter your message here…

  3. you want to sell peak oil, risk damage, and offer construction jobs and hardware sales that may be imported.?raw coal raw oil raw log raw deal.?no secondary and or tertiary mfg.?

  4. I believe that if enough people come out against these kind of mega projects then they CAN be stopped. The way to start is to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on. Then people can make informed decisions.

  5. enter your message here…In the long run we lose money! [not refining here] We lose habitat [due to leaks and neglect] and worst of all a spill on our delicate coastline!! not if but when!!!,have we learned nothing from the past,they need the oil ! we need political backbone to negotiate safe terms that benefit Canadians as well as China! This is not the answer! I am not blind the world today runs on fossil fuel that doesn’t mean we should blindly stumble down such a destructive path like this one please step back take pause and plan not only for now but also for the so impotant future for us all !!

  6. One small point. There is a control measure for preventing stress breakage. It is called stress relieving. Stress fractures most commonly occur near welds in the steel pipe… This is because of the material surrounding the weld becoming brittle due to heat exposure. The process of stress relieving involves heating the weld, and the pipe adjacent to it to a high temperature, followed by a controlled cooling period. This process is common practice in the manufacture of critical piping connections. There is no need for further action…

  7. I suspect the Chinese will own large shares in the companies the bitnum will originate and the doubled pipeline will use pipe manufatured in China and then loaded on Chinese built ships…all of this built to “exacting standards”…what could possibly go wrong.Why doesn’t Alberta simply build a refinery with money borrowed from the Chinese and ship product by rail ?

  8. I don’t mean to be difficult here, but if the corporation can’t be made to pay for cleanups then the management of the company and the pols who passed it should be liable. Why don’t a few hundred of the people speaking against the pipeline ask them to sign a piece of paper accepting personal responsibility if the the company doesn’t clean it up and pay for it within a year. Just a dated piece of paper with a simple statement and a witnessed signature should do it:
    I, _____________, CEO of Enbridge, do solemnly swear to be personally liable for any damages to BC or the BC coast in the event of a spill, leak and etc from the pipeline and/or from the tankers carrying bitumen from or condensate to the port of Kitimat if said spill or leak is not cleaned up and paid for by Enbridge within one year of the date of occurrence.

    If they won’t sign it means they don’t believe there won’t be a major spill.

  9. “Exxon Valdes spill in 1989 is still not cleaned up.”

    nor has Exxon paid out on the so called Billion Dollar settlement as Exxon just merrily continues to appeal the decision into the third decade now, with many reductions in the amount as the state of permanent appeal that will only end when the settlement is thrown out entirely or Exxon ceases to exist………

  10. Harper works for whoever gives him money, he isn’t fussy.

    I wonder if Obama is delaying the Keystone pipeline, to see if Harper forces the Enbidge pipeline through? It would be much easier for the U.S. to also bring their tankers into Kitimat, than fighting over the Keystone pipeline with U.S. people.

    It could perhaps be, if Harper can con other country’s into the dirty tar, we could have hoards of dirty oil tankers, coming into Port Kitimat.

    I was angered by the spokesman for Enbridge, saying 48% of the BC people are for their pipeline. Enbridge has had 804 pipe spills, within the last 10 years. They didn’t even clean up their mess, in the Kalamazoo River. Harper will use, every dirty tactic in the book, to force these atrocities onto the BC citizens.

    There are earthquakes all over the place in BC. There are avalanches, mudslides, rock slides. In our vast wilderness, how long can it take to even find the pipe burst? This is utter insanity, to string a pipeline into BC.

    We know there will be a tanker spill. The seas around Kitimat are one of the most treacherous seas in the world. Every other day we hear, of high wind warnings, up to 121 kms and high waves. What fools.

  11. “To accomplish things, you have to do stuff.”

    You are absolutely correct; in order for the general population of BC to accomplish the prevention of this pipeline we are going to have “to do stuff.”

    Or we could hire some international independents to “do stuff” for us. Either way, if the feds want to get into a war over this they can have one.

    So far it has been a war of words. If they are looking for something physical on the ground that can be accommodated also.

    Gustafson Lake? Je me souviens……

  12. “Is Steven Harper working for the Chinese ?” I certainly hope so. Because along with Brazil, Russia, and India (collectively known as BRIC) it is where the future of world trade is happening. The middle class is growing massively in those four countries as we export our wealth generating expertise; extending lives, improving health, and spreading education.

    To accomplish things, you have to do stuff.
    When you do stuff, Pooh happens.
    …I wish that was an A A Milne quote 🙂

  13. And it’s also the fracking for NG which is going to cause some horrific environmental problems in the N.E.
    This from Australia:

    “In one case, 17 cows died in one hour from respiratory failure after shale gas fracking fluids were accidentally released into an adjacent paddock.

    Fracking refers to the controversial method of injecting chemicals, water and sand at high pressures to crack rock and release gas.

    On another farm, 70 of 140 cattle exposed to wastewater from fracking died, as did a number of cats and dogs from a neighbourhood where wastewater was spread on roads as a method of disposal.”

    Too bad we here in BC didn’t have a right to VOTE on this and every other important issue.

  14. Agree with Raif 100% on this.
    We simply cannot allow this project to happen if we claim to care about the future of “Beautiful B.C”
    The terrorists that the CONS are always scaring us about will have a field day attacking a pipeline of this length.

    Basically the Prime Minister is pushing us into risking environmental armagedden so he can help fuel Communist Red China while enhancing the stock portfolios of his masters. This weakens us, makes us less safe,and gives away the last of a finite resource to the country that has stolen most of our manufacturing jobs.

    Is Steven Harper working for the Chinese ?

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