According to the Association of Oil Pipelines:
- 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.
- Replacing even a modest-sized pipeline, which might transport 150,000 barrels per day, would require 750 tanker truck loads per day, a load delivered every two minutes around the clock.
- Replacing the same pipeline with a railroad train of tank cars carrying 2,000 barrels each would require a 75-car train to arrive and be unloaded every day.
- In addition to the fewest releases, pipeline transportation has the lowest input energy requirements and carbon footprint as compared to other transportation modes (barge, truck, rail, and marine).
- Because of the volume that must be transported, pipelines are the only feasible method for moving the enormous quantities of petroleum America consumes each day.
Enbridge’s goal is to prevent all spills and leaks from our liquids pipelines system. This means recognizing conditions that may have contributed to failures in the past – then working to minimize the risk. It also means adopting advanced leak prevention and pipeline integrity management technologies, following environmentally sound practices and taking a proactive approach to pipeline testing and repair.
Despite extensive preventative measures, however, spills do happen. Still, given the volume of crude oil and petroleum products we transport, they are rare. For example, in 2009, Enbridge recorded 89 spills along our liquids pipeline system. These spills represented about 8,353 barrels, which is a small fraction of the total volume – approximately 891 million barrels – that we transported on our liquids system in 2009.
The majority of the spills that Enbridge experiences on our liquids pipelines system are small and take place at Enbridge facilities, such as pump stations and terminals. As a result, we are able to clean them up quickly, and they have either low or no environmental impact. For example, in 2009, 83 of the 89 spills we experienced involved fewer than 100 barrels of product, and 80 of these spills (approximately 6,369 barrels, or about three quarters of our total spill volume) were contained within Enbridge facilities.
Spills happen for a variety of reasons. Pipelines that come into contact with water, bacteria and chemicals can corrode, both internally and externally. Pipelines under stress can experience what is called “stress corrosion cracking” (SCC), which causes them to crack and break. People can inadvertently damage pipelines through unauthorized digging and construction.
To combat these factors, Enbridge invests heavily in pipeline safety through our Pipeline Integrity Management and Maintenance Program. This program encompasses the tools, technologies and strategies needed to ensure that pipeline networks have the strength and operating fitness to perform safety, reliably and in an environmentally responsible manner. It includes:
- Having in place a comprehensive, company-wide integrity management system that focuses on the integrity of the whole system―company pipelines and facilities
- Implementing rigorous monitoring programs, which include Enbridge’s leadership in the use of sophisticated inline inspection tools ("pigs") that identify threats to integrity before leaks occur
- Implementing rigorous preventive maintenance programs, including inspection and repair digs
- Participating in industry forums to share and exchange knowledge
- Pursuing and supporting technology research
- Contributing to the development of national pipeline safety standards and industry-recommended practices
- Supporting state and provincial excavation one-call efforts to reduce the risk of third party damage to pipelines
When a spill, leak or release does occur, Enbridge carries out emergency response procedures to shut down and isolate the impacted pipe, notify the appropriate government and regulatory agencies, contain the substance, and manage potential environmental and safety impacts. Enbridge also works closely with landowners, regulatory agencies and other concerned parties to develop remediation and monitoring plans.
In addition, Enbridge conducts root-cause incident investigations and reviews the effectiveness of our response to the incident. We share the lessons we have learned through these investigations and review them within our company, with industry and with local responders.
See Enbridge's Liquids Pipelines Spill Performance