Pipeline assessment and first response plan


Pipelines are the safest method of transporting fuels, as they have the least amount of releases of any transportation mode.

  • Liquid pipeline spills along rights of way have decreased over the past decade, in terms of both the number of spills and the amount of product spilled. On average, for every barrel of oil (42 gallons) shipped 1,000 miles, less than one teaspoon is lost from a liquid pipeline.
  • In addition to the fewest releases, pipeline transportation has the lowest input energy requirements and carbon footprint compared to other transportation modes (barge, truck, rail, and marine). Due to the volume that must be transported, pipelines are the only feasible method for moving the enormous quantities of petroleum America consumes each day.
  • In 2010 Enbridge safely transported 950 million barrels of hydrocarbons with a safety record better than 99.99%. That’s a powerful demonstration of our commitment to safety.

Judge us by what we’ve done – year in, year out – through our 60 year history. Safety is our highest priority. No accident is ever acceptable. Our objective is to avoid spills.


Our goal is always to have zero spills. Along the Northern Gateway pipeline route, safety measures will include:

  • Installing safety control valves on either side of major water crossings to ensure the pipeline can be quickly shut down
  • Monitoring the system 24/7 and responding immediately to any changes in pressure
  • Individually engineering water crossings to allow for substantial extra depth of cover and increased pipe wall thickness in these areas
  • Pipeline Emergency Response equipment and personnel will be stationed at numerous locations along the pipeline system
  • Local emergency responders will be trained to assist with any potential spill scenario and full scale response exercises will be held annually with these organizations

Plans will be prepared in advance to identify potential control points along every watercourse

Our environmental protection systems are designed to spot trouble before leaks occur to proactively protect our environment.

First, the pipeline pressure is continuously monitored by our control centre operators to identify any pressure changes. They are trained to respond to any pressure fluctuation and take pump stations off line and remotely close valves as necessary. Second, the varying elevation of the pipeline through rolling hills and mountainous areas also provides a dramatic limit to the amount of oil that could potentially come out of the pipe.

Initial response to a Control Centre MBS (Material Balance System) alarm will be in accordance with current Control Centre Operations procedures and in compliance with all applicable codes in effect at the time of the design. Enbridge’s current procedures require initiation of a line shutdown within 10 minutes of receiving an unexplained MBS alarm and initiation of the specific subsequent steps depending on the nature of the alarm.

Enbridge has been operating liquids pipelines since 1949 and invests heavily in pipeline safety though a branch of technology known as Pipeline Integrity management and maintenance, which encompasses all of the tools, technologies, and strategies needed to ensure pipeline networks have the strength and operating 'fitness' to perform safely, reliably and in an environmentally responsible manner.

More than 450 employees and contractors work to support the safe and efficient operation of the pipeline system. Enbridge’s significant investment in its ongoing Integrity Management System is evidence of our commitment to preventing spills and leaks.

Enbridge has a preventive maintenance program for our pipeline system that includes:

  • constant computerized monitoring
  • routine inspections
  • aerial patrols of rights-of-way
  • education outreach to landowners, excavators and local officials

Enbridge is recognized as an industry leader in pipeline safety and integrity. Our activities – everything from pipeline design, construction, testing, maintenance, operation and safety practices – are subject to government regulations, which we work hard to meet or exceed.

Safety in processes and technologies

Our pipelines undergo rigorous testing during construction, before being placed in service and during normal operations, using many of the following processes and technologies to prevent and detect leaks:

  • Careful selection and testing of pipe prior to and during manufacturing
  • X-ray or ultrasonic testing of all welds made to a pipeline section during its construction
  • Sophisticated monitoring and control systems that operate around the clock, 365 days a year
  • Research and development on technologies designed to prevent corrosion and cracking
  • Tests to confirm pipeline integrity on new pipelines/systems
  • The use of durable coating systems and cathodic protection (use of low voltage electric current) to protect pipe from external corrosion


Enbridge is committed to using the most modern technologies to ensure the pipeline is protected from the natural environment.

Enbridge is considering a number of measures to protect the pipeline where it crosses terrain exposed to avalanche and other slope hazards. These measures include tunnels, deep burial of the pipe, special pipe design and other protection measures. Enbridge does not anticipate there will be any stand alone avalanche sheds on the route.

Routing assessments for the project through the steep mountain valleys of the Kitimat and Clore Rivers have identified a number of areas exposed to a range of slope hazards including avalanches. Detailed engineering will include further assessments of these hazards and development of appropriate protection measures.

One example of measures planned to protect the pipeline from avalanches and other slope hazards are the tunnels in the Nimbus Mountain area connecting the Clore and Kitimat River Valleys. The tunnels were selected to provide a safe means to cross under steep mountain terrain subject to avalanche hazards.

Water crossings

The current route crosses 773 active watercourses in Alberta and BC, ranging from very small creeks to larger rivers. Of these crossings, approximately 83 are deemed, by Northern Gateway experts applying DFO guidelines, to be high sensitivity crossings.

Today our pipelines cross hundreds of rivers both large and small, some of which include the Athabasca, Missouri, North and South Saskatchewan, Niagara and St. Claire rivers.

We use a variety of crossing techniques to ensure that our pipelines are safely placed and disturb the environment as little as possible during construction and provide maximum safety while in operation.

Northern Gateway has established a strategic watercourse crossings team to conduct detailed site surveys at difficult crossings to ensure they can be built responsibly and with minimal impacts. Already the pipeline route has been adjusted in some areas to avoid sensitive fisheries habitat and other natural resources.

A number of water crossing techniques will be used and must be approved by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the National Energy Board. Most of the watercourse crossings are very straightforward. Northern Gateway has established a strategic watercourse crossings team to conduct detailed site surveys at difficult crossings to ensure they can be built responsibly and with minimal impacts.

The following watercourse crossing methods will be used for the Project:

  • Open cut
  • Diversions
  • Isolation methods, including dam and pump, flume, coffer dams and silt curtains
  • Trenchless methods, including bore, horizontal directional drilling, aerial and micro-tunneling

In general, the pipeline will be buried deeper under watercourse crossings to provide additional protection. On average the pipeline will have a minimum depth of cover of 0.9 meters (3 feet). At watercourse crossings the pipeline will generally have a minimum depth of cover of about 1.5 meters.

For watercourses that are crossed using horizontal directional drilling, the depth of cover will range from about 30 to 100 meters.

There will be sections of the pipeline that require thicker walls for additional protection. This is usually done for watercourses crossed with horizontal directional drilling. The general pipeline wall thickness will be between 19.8 mm and 22.2 mm. In sections requiring thicker walls, the thickness will range from 22.2 mm to 24.0 mm.

In Canada and the U.S., Enbridge operates the world’s longest and most advanced petroleum and liquids pipeline system. We move more than two million barrels of petroleum products through our pipeline system each day, and we do so according to the highest industry standards for safety and environmental protection.

Environmental Assessment

An environmental and socio-economic assessment (ESA) process assesses the potential effects of the project from biological, natural processes, human health, and socio-economic perspectives, relative to what is there now. Opportunities are then identified to reduce or manage the project's potential effects, and monitoring programs designed to keep an eye on results.

ESA Discussion Guides

In response to requests from stakeholders for more detailed information about the project in an easy to understand fashion, we have developed two discussion guides. One is specific to the marine aspects of the project and the other to the pipeline aspects.

Pipelines and Tank Terminal

These two discussion guides provide a summary of:

  • The planning and approval processes for this project
  • The Project description, including spill prevention and response
  • The ESA to date, by subject

The information in the discussion guides reflects the work completed as of April 2009. Work on the analysis is still underway and an update will include a summary of the preliminary residual effects (effects after mitigation has been taken into account).

What We Need From You

We are looking for your feedback regarding the project. Now is the ideal time to send your feedback as the project is still in the design stage – the easiest time for modifications to happen. The discussion guides will acquaint you with the specifics of the project enabling more substantial input. If there is more information you need, please email us and we will be happy to provide that as well if it is available. Or if you prefer a conversation, call us at 1-888-434-0533 and we’ll arrange a suitable time.

The project will only be as good as the input that goes into it.

Environmental assessment

First response plan

Environmental protection is a core priority at Enbridge. The company devotes significant time, energy and financial resources to ensure we prevent accidents before they occur.

If an incident should occur, Northern Gateway will be there quickly to control, contain and clean up.

Key elements of our strategy are:

  • Extensive training of personnel including real-time first response drills
  • First response drill review and continuous plan improvement
  • Placement of first response equipment in strategic locations at sea and on land
  • Training of personnel in local communities to assist in response activities
  • State-of-the-art modeling to determine likely areas in need of first response
  • Rigorous maintenance to ensure equipment is in top working condition
  • Communications plan outlining key local, provincial and federal officials with Northern Gateway contact responsibilities
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All comments are moderated, not based on their opinion, but on the presentation of fact-based and constructive dialogue and compliance with our terms and conditions.
  • Jeffrey Dawson, Oct 14th, 2012 (2 years ago)

    I don't think it's a question of if, but when, there is an oil spill. No matter how much safety precautions are taken, a spill will happen. It could take a month or twenty years, but an oil spill will devastate the BC coast and never leave it the same again. With over 200 supertankers per year carrying oil across a difficult route, a spill is bound to happen.

  • Northern Gateway, Sep 20th, 2012 (2 years ago)

    Hi Ian, thanks for joining the conversation.

    We share your concerns for pipeline and marine safety which is why we've put in place a comprehensive plan to protect people and the environment along the proposed route, at the marine terminal and along the north coast of BC.

    Recently, as a result of hearing from stakeholders along the proposed project route, we announced a package of safety enhancements intended to help people feel more comfortable with the project—we're going to make what was already a safe project even safer. You can read about these enhancements here: http://www.northerngateway.ca/news-and-media/what-s-new-at-northern-gateway/northern-gateway-files-reply-evidence-to-jrp-makes-pledge-to-heighten-pipeline-safety-operations-measures/

    Protecting people and the environment is our first priority.

  • Ian Green, Sep 20th, 2012 (2 years ago)

    I am very worried about spill acccidents.
    Both from tankers, and possible breaks in the pipe -line.
    I feel that no matter how well you are prepared things always go wrong.
    I would not want another mess.
    Please be careful!

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