What happens if there's an emergency?

In case of an incident, pipeline operators have incident management teams to immediately implement the emergency response plan. This plan is based on the specific pipeline, and outlines the precise steps and procedures. The team regularly practices emergency response exercises to prepare to respond effectively.

Responding immediately to an emergency situation is top priority. That’s why CEPA members developed and follow a guideline on standard response times, ensuring crews, equipment and resources get to the site of the emergency as quickly as possible.

Phase 1 - Getting the pipeline shut down immediately

Once the leak detection systems alert there may be a spill, the pipeline is quickly shut down.

Valves located at key points in the line can shut off the flow of product in the pipeline at a moment’s notice. These valves are controlled remotely from the pipeline operator’s control centre.

Phase 2 - Launching the emergency response plan

The emergency response plan is put into action. These plans are designed to address a wide range of emergency scenarios, identify potential hazards to the public and the environment, and outline the process of handling the emergency.

All CEPA members are committed to using an internationally-recognized system called an Incident Command System (ICS) to control and coordinate emergency response. ICS is used in the case of large incidents to effectively respond to an emergency, ensuring that resources are used efficiently and the public and emergency responders are safe. The target is to have the system established in no more than two hours.

The public will be notified as soon as the details of the incident can be confirmed.

Public Safety Canada has mandated the use of ICS in the Emergency Management Framework and it has been adopted by all the Provincial Emergency Management Agencies, including the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. ICS is used by the Canadian Coast Guard and Parks Canada, as well as most first responders and emergency organizations throughout Canada, United States and United Kingdom. The United Nations also uses this system.

Phase 3 - Mobilizing first responders

First responders from the pipeline company arrive at the site to repair the leak and start clean-up. All CEPA members have trained crews standing by to respond quickly with oil spill containment and recovery equipment (called OSCAR units) to contain the leak. Operators also train and work with municipal emergency services on responding to pipeline emergencies.

Repair and clean-up crews arrive within a target of three hours.

Phase 4 – Arrival of initial response equipment

Within six hours, additional crews and emergency equipment arrive (for oil, additional crews will arrive within 72 hours due to the heavy equipment required). These crews of clean-up specialists, biologists and environmental experts will work as long as it takes to clean-up the area.

Hundreds of responders and convoys of equipment arrive quickly.

Adding additional resources as required

As the first crews arrive, they begin requesting additional crews as required, including clean-up specialists and environmental experts. Wildlife response units may be brought in to prevent birds and other wildlife from coming into contact with the spill.

All CEPA members can be counted on to respond to an emergency if required, providing personnel, equipment or specific expertise.

Discovering the cause

As crews work on cleaning and reclaiming the area, regulators work with the pipeline operator and other organizations to determine the cause, so equipment and operating procedures can be adjusted to reduce the chance of it ever happening again.

As the transmission pipeline industry is one of the most regulated industries in the world, incidents are carefully studied to learn how to prevent emergencies in the future.

Learning from the results

Once the incident is investigated, key findings are shared with all CEPA members as well as the public. Everything possible is done to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Being liable for the spill

Canadian pipeline companies are subject to regulation that makes them absolutely liable for the complete cost of a pipeline spill, no matter whose fault the spill was. The Pipeline Safety Act clearly outlines that major transmission pipeline operators must have a minimum of a billion dollars in financial capacity to handle a spill. If the company is at fault, they have unlimited liability until the area is cleaned, and they may be required to pay clean-up and recovery costs to affected stakeholders and communities.

Case study: Responding to a real incident

On June 22, 2013, a once-in-100-year rainfall in the Fort McMurray, Alberta area throughout the month of June triggered ground movement on the right-of-way of Enbridge’s 12-inch Line 37, causing the line to buckle and release approximately 1,300 barrels of light synthetic crude oil.

Initial response

The leak detection system sounded the alarm. The line was immediately shut down. The emergency response plan for Line 37 was initiated.

Field personnel were mobilized with equipment to investigate the site. Regulatory authorities and Aboriginal and Métis communities in the area were notified.

As a precaution, all other pipelines in the area were temporarily shut down to conduct extensive engineering and geotechnical assessments on all of these lines to ensure they would be safe to operate.

Enbridge first responders quickly contained the oil using containment booms and absorbents. They also deployed wildlife deterrents.

Additional responders and support resources arrived from across Western Canada within the first 24 hours.

Cleanup and recovery

At the peak of the cleanup and recovery operation during the last week of June 2013, approximately 200 personnel were on-site.

Enbridge built a road to the leak site constructed of rig mats (to protect the environment) to allow access for vacuum trucks, excavators and emergency response equipment.

A portable water treatment plant was brought in to treat any oily water collected from the site.

Enbridge established a site-specific wildlife management strategy, including extensive aerial and ground-based wildlife surveys, and fenced the area to prevent wildlife from entering. As a result, the overall impact on wildlife was minimal.

Environmental site assessments were carried out concurrently with remediation work. The assessments quantifying the leak’s impacts to the air, soil, groundwater, sediment and surface water were used to develop optimal clean-up strategies.

Enbridge personnel conducted extensive engineering and geotechnical analysis, and carried out inspection work at various points on the pipeline.

Throughout their response, Enbridge worked closely with regulatory agencies and local stakeholders to establish a comprehensive response and remediation plan. Regulators visited the site, and Enbridge provided regular updates on the status of the clean-up, repair and remediation to everyone concerned.

The outcome

The oil recovery process entailed the collection and treatment of approximately 3,000 cubic meters of water, as well as the removal of approximately 6,800 tonnes of impacted soil and sediment. Ninety-three per cent of the oil spilled was recovered.

Enbridge implemented various measures to mitigate ground forces on Line 37 and other pipelines sharing the right-of-way.

On July 11, 2013, the repaired line was returned to service at a reduced operating pressure and after additional monitoring and analysis, returned to normal operating pressure on July 29, 2013. All the other pipelines in the region that Enbridge had shut down were also fully assessed and individually returned to normal service by early July 2013.

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