Independence, prosperity and an 'economic shot in the arm'

Enbridge's Great Lakes to Gulf Coast series (Part 11)

Independence, Kansas, is perhaps best known as the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie.

Last year, Independence had full houses on the prairie – not to mention apartments, hotel rooms, trailers . . .

From mid-2013 through mid-2014, between 600 and 700 pipeliners from Enbridge and trusted contractor Michels set up a nearby field office and got busy building the local segment of the $2.8-billion Flanagan South line, which now has the capacity to carry 585,000 barrels of crude oil a day, 593 miles from Pontiac, Ill., to Cushing, Okla.

And in addition to eating at restaurants, keeping clean at laundromats, getting their vehicles serviced, and buying groceries and gas, the Flanagan South contingent also needed a place to hang their hard hats.

“When I heard that we were going to need housing for 600 or 700 people, I thought, ‘Holy smokes, how are we going to pull this off?’ ” recalls Lisa Wilson, president of the Independence Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 250 businesses in the area. “But we made it work. We found housing for them. These are resourceful people, and everybody got very creative – renting and sharing housing, staying in RV parks and trailer courts.

“It was a tremendous year,” adds Wilson. “I hope they felt as well received as we were happy to have them in our community.”

Together, the Dec. 2 opening of Enbridge’s $2.8-billion Flanagan South pipeline and the twinning of the Seaway Pipeline represent North America’s first large-volume, full-path solution for safely and reliably delivering Western Canadian crude to the heavy-oil-hungry refining market in the Houston area.

The Flanagan South project created about 925 temporary jobs in Kansas, including pipeline and facility activity, with 40 to 50 per cent of those workers hired locally from union halls. Enbridge paid $14-million to Kansas in state taxes during the design and construction phases, and the state will collect $12-million a year from Enbridge in property taxes for Flanagan South.

In Independence, a city with a population of 9,500, Wilson says the community saw a bump in sales-tax figures of six per cent from 2012 to 2013, when the Enbridge contingent spent the latter half of the year in town.

“In a small community, I’m not sure everyone realized the magnitude of what this would mean prior to Enbridge’s arrival. Our restaurants felt it. Our laundromats, our convenience stores. They bought everything off the shelves at our Wal-Mart, which is a great thing,” she says.

“I mean this wholeheartedly, and I speak for everyone in the city offices and the chamber’s economic development – thank you. We’re so thrilled that Enbridge chose to place a regional field office here . . . it was truly an economic shot in the arm.”

Safety and operational reliability are our No. 1 priority at Enbridge, and the Flanagan South project achieved an enviable safety record during construction of the 593-mile line.

Through more than 12 million hours committed to the project, the Flanagan South team turned in a Total Recordable Incident Frequency (TRIF) rate of 0.61 – an exemplary number. The TRIF standard, which measures the rate of recordable workplace injuries and other occupational incidents, is used in virtually all industries; a TRIF rate of 2.5 or lower is considered to be good, and 1.5 or lower to be excellent.

More than 79,000 Field Level Hazard Assessments (FLHAs) – the so-called “last looks” for potential hazards before the day’s work begins – were carried out by Flanagan South crews, while more than 26,500 safety observations were made.