Canada’s two biggest pipeline operators bumped into each other last week, spilling 200,000 litres of oil condensate at an industrial site east of Edmonton.
“Federal officials and Canada’s two largest pipeline companies are investigating after a construction crew working for one of the companies, TransCanada Corporation, appeared to cause damage to an Alberta pipeline that belonged to the other, [Enbridge Inc.],” the National Observer reports. The National Energy Board sent investigators to the accident site, a privately-owned excavation pit.
With more than 840,000 kilometres of oil and gas pipeline veined across Canada—more than enough to deliver either product to the moon and back—a collision was probably inevitable. Which company first reported the leak is not clear. “But both companies told National Observer in separate statements they had responded immediately.”
Enbridge claimed its leak detection system—which failed badly in 2010 at Kalamazoo, Michigan—warned it “to shut down its Line 2A pipeline,” the Observer reports. Enbridge also asserted “that the incident occurred during construction work by TransCanada Pipelines and its contractor, Ledcor.” For its part, TransCanada told the outlet that its crews had “detected the leak and immediately reported the incident to Enbridge.”
The NEB issued a statement saying that “there were no injuries, no fire, no evacuations, and no risk to public safety” from the leak.
Nonetheless, observes the Observer’s Mike De Souza, “the spill near Enbridge’s Edmonton Terminal is the latest in a series of accidents that are exacerbating public concerns about whether government inspectors are providing adequate oversight of industry.”
The National Energy Board is itself under review, if not investigation, by a special panel charged with suggesting steps to restore the public’s very strained trust in the agency. Meanwhile, the as-yet unreformed agency continues to weigh TransCanada’s application to build its Energy East pipeline, while overseeing the 73,000 kilometres of the country’s pipelines that are under federal jurisdiction—generally larger lines that carry product across provincial and national boundaries.