Enbridge Has Another Oil Spill

Enbridge Has Another Oil Spill December 20, 2014

Surprise, surprise, Enbridge has had yet another oil spill and has had to shut down a pipeline that runs through Michigan. 57,000 gallons of oil spilled in Saskatchewan, forcing them to shut off Line 4, which runs through part of Michigan (not the one under Lake Michigan, that’s Line 5).

Canadian energy delivery company Enbridge Inc. has temporarily shut down and isolated one of its crude oil pipelines that connects to the United States after a 1,350-barrel, or 56,700-gallon oil spill, the company reported Wednesday evening.

While the company said it’s not sure how long the cleanup will take or when the pipeline will be re-opened, it insisted that no oil was spilled out of the area within the Regina Terminal in Saskatchewan, where the incident occurred. It’s not yet clear what kind of oil was released — the 796,000 barrel-a-day Line 4 pipeline, which connects to a terminal in Wisconsin, carries heavy, medium, and light sour crude.

“There are no impacts to the public, wildlife or waterways,” Enbridge said in a statement. “Nearby residents and businesses may detect a faint odour.”

A spokesman for Enbridge told Reuters that the spill happened because of a problem with a valve within the terminal, and not because of a problem with the actual pipeline. He called it a “relatively easy fix,” but did not give a timeline for when the system would be back in action. Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Canada’s National Energy Board would meet with Enbridge officials on Friday to discuss when the line could return to service.

Yeah, it’s funny how every time there’s an oil spill, the company responsible says there will be either no or a very limited impact on the public and the environment. Because that’s totally credible, isn’t it?

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  • zenlike

    There will be a limited impact on their bottom line, which is what counts.

  • =8)-DX

    There will be limited impact on us giving a shit.

  • Do they taste test this oil to ensure every batch is sufficiently sour?

  • thebookofdave

    Looks like Enbridge decided to phase out their pipeline by attrition, and use Michigan streets and waterways as canals to carry petroleum. Sure, they chip in a few bucks in fines and have to settle the occasional class-action lawsuit, but that’s a drop in the bucket (actually, billions of drops) compared to their old infrastructure and maintenance costs.

  • kraut

    It is so cool of you to harp on Enbridge, because…American run pipelines apparently are free of faults:

    A Sunoco pipeline ruptured and spilled about 117,000 gallons of gasoline in Wellington, Ohio, late on January 12. Some residents were evacuated for a week.[341][342]

    A 20-inch crude oil pipeline ruptured near Golden Gate, Illinois on August 10. About 243,000 gallons of crude were spilled, with about 33,000 gallons being lost. The cause was listed as a pipe seam failure.

    A gasoline release from a Sunoco petroleum pipeline occurred on November 25, near a retail mall in Murrysville, PA. Officials said the release occurred from the 6-inch line at about 9:30 a.m. while a Sunoco Logistics crew was working on a ball valve. It was suspected the ball valve was improperly installed. The failure resulted in the evacuation of numerous stores, restaurants and roads in the immediate vicinity due to the dousing of gasoline and subsequent vapors emitting from the 11,760 US gallons (44,500 L) of spilled product.[

    A farmer and rancher near White Oak Township, Michigan smelled gasoline on April 13, and discovered gasoline from a products pipeline leaking into a drainage ditch. As of late September, an estimated 460,000 gallons of gasoline had been released, with about 111,000 gallons of it recovered.[292]

    Late on July 1, a 12-inch Exxon Mobil crude oil pipeline. also known as the Silvertip Pipeline, ruptured, and spilled about 63,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River in south-central Montana. There was confusion in the pipeline control room, causing a delayed pipeline shutdown. Some residents of Laurel, Montana had to be evacuated

    A pipeline carrying heating oil was hit by construction workers in East Providence, Rhode Island on August 31, spraying oil on roofs, trees, and pavement, and flowed into storm drains. At least 56,000 US gallons (210,000 L) of oil were spilled.[316

    A Sunoco pipeline ruptured and spilled about 117,000 gallons of gasoline in Wellington, Ohio, late on January 12. Some residents were evacuated for a week.[341][342]

    On January 18, the original Colonial Pipeline mainline failed in Belton, South Carolina, spilling about 13,500 gallons of petroleum product. The failure was caused by internal corrosion.[

    n April 28, an ExxonMobil 20/22-inch-diameter pipeline ruptured near Torbert in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, about 20 miles west of Baton Rouge, and crude oil spilled into the surrounding area, and flowed into an unnamed tributary connected to Bayou Cholpe. About 117,000 gallons of crude were spilled, with about 37,000 gallons being lost. The pipeline failed due to a manufacturing defect.

    West Shore Pipe Line petroleum products pipeline burst near Jackson, Wisconsin on July 17, releasing about 54,000 gallons of gasoline. At least one family self evacuated due to the leak

    On March 18, a Chevron 8-inch petroleum products pipeline ruptured along a seam, spilling diesel fuel into Willard Bay State Park near Ogden, Utah. Wildlife was coated with diesel, but, the fuel was prevented from entering into water supply intakes. About 25,000 gallons of diesel were spilled.[410][411]

    2013 Mayflower oil spill occurred when ExxonMobil’s 20-inch Pegasus crude oil pipeline spilled near Mayflower, Arkansas on March 29, causing crude to flow through yards and gutters, and towards Lake Conway. Wildlife was coated in some places. Twenty-two homes were evacuated, due to the fumes and fire hazard. Some estimates say the total amount spilled could reach upwards of 300,000 gallons diluted bitumen were spilled. Hook cracks and extremely low impact toughness in the LF-ERW seam were identified as causes of the failure.[413][414][415][416]


    Those are just some of the biggest spills. But unfortunately, because they are not by a Canadian pipeline operator they are not worth mentioning.

    Skeptics with tunnel vision.

    If you need oil or gas – you better be prepared for spills and explosion.

  • Katie Anderson

    Ed lives in Michigan, and not too far from where the last Enbridge spill happened. That spill was the largest inland spill in US history. A lot of the stories he shares are about Michigan politics and other things affecting the area, so of course Enbridge is high on his radar. What possible motive do you think he has for singling out Canadian pipelines, considering how openly critical he is of many US companies and politicians?

  • kraut

    “What possible motive do you think he has for singling out Canadian pipelines, considering how openly critical he is of many US companies and politicians?”

    How would I know his motives? All I see that he seems to be singling out one particular company that is NOT a US owned entity.

    Yes, the Enbridge oil spill was the largest, but followed by this apparently neglected one:


    “As it turned out, a Tesoro Logistics pipeline had ruptured, spreading more than 865,000 gallons of oil across seven acres of Mr. Jensen’s farm. The spill is one of the largest inland oil pipeline accidents in the United States”

    So maybe you can understand why I am slightly objecting to singling out one company over most others, whatever his ulterior motives.

    As long as our western civilization needs oil, it will be extracted, transported, with all the attending risks – political, environmental, economical, health and safety and I see no change in sight, considering the fact that most electricity in the states is produced by coal, oil and NG. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d2/U.S._Electricity_Generation_Sources_Pie_Chart_-_2012.svg

    That should make it clear that any energy used for transportation, heating, cooling, power usage for machinery etc. will be connected to non renewable energy into the next decades. That takes nuclear into account, as apart from breeder reactors Uranium in my book is a non renewable resource as well, and obviously fraught with high risks.

    It is nice to sit on a high horse condemning the industry, when no, absolutely no alternative that is baseline safe and reliable is in sight. Even hydro power is not environmentally friendly, considering the loss of farmland, wildlife habitat, production of CO2 by decaying trees, immense resources needed for infrastructure, the dams, power lines etc.

    Anybody who thinks that any mode of energy production is superior in a smaller environmental footprint should investigate the resources needed to build anything related to energy production

    The best example is the absolute idiocy of producing fuel from agricultural land which once was touted as the panacea, but has been found an idea bereft of sanity.

  • caseloweraz

    I think you make a good point about oil pipelines. Yes, they will be needed for some time to come, and some of them will leak. The question is how many will leak, and for what reason. BP had a number of pipeline leaks at its Alaska facility due to its habit of deferring preventive maintenance. This is documented in Run to Failure by Abrahm Lustgarten. It seems clear that BP, like other oil companies, could have fewer and smaller leaks if they devoted more funds to maintenance.

    Anybody who thinks that any mode of energy production is superior in a smaller environmental footprint should investigate the resources needed to build anything related to energy production.

    Building a nuclear power plant takes quite a bit of concrete and steel, and producing those releases quite a lot of greenhouse gases. Also, for current reactor designs, the uranium must be mined, refined, enriched, fabricated into fuel, and transported to the reactor. Then there are the costs of waste disposition and plant decommissioning.

    But still, a 1GWe NPP emits far less waste and CO2 during its lifetime than a coal-fired plant of equal output. Just the transport of coal will produce more CO2 that the nuclear plant. Therefore, some energy sources are cleaner than others.

  • kraut

    Here are some interesting links comparing the various costs – financial, environmental – of energy production.


    “Today 78% of our electrical energy needs are met by fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Of all electricity generation sources fossil fuel appears to be the most reliable, less costly, most abundant, produces most of the world’s electricity yet it is responsible for most of the environmental and health impacts.

    With respect to nuclear there is the question on the availability of uranium, for how long can we continue to mine it and

    issues of disposal.

    Nuclear energy suffers from severe limitations most severely, the limited quantity of uranium available for mining and

    reclamation from the surface of the Earth and appears to grant no quantifiable benefit to those who opt to use it.

    There have been developments to replace uranium.”

    Another perspective:


    as to cost incl. environmental cost and loads:




    Yes, nuclear has among the lowest CO2 footprint. However – if a disaster strikes, as in Chernobyl and Fukushima, the costs are immense and fall to society as a whole, and the area surrounding a plant can be unusable for centuries.


    “The precise value of the abandoned cities, towns, agricultural lands, businesses, homes and property located within the roughly 310 sq miles (800 sq km) of the exclusion zones has not been established. Estimates of the total economic loss range from $250[iv]-$500[v] billion US. As for the human costs, in September 2012, Fukushima officials stated that 159,128 people had been evicted from the exclusion zones, losing their homes and virtually all their possessions. Most have received only a small compensation to cover their costs of living as evacuees. Many are forced to make mortgage payments on the homes they left inside the exclusion zones. They have not been told that their homes will never again be habitable. ”


    ” Japan’s government is finalizing plans to borrow an additional 3 trillion yen ($30 billion) to pay for compensating Fukushima evacuees and cleaning up the area outside the wrecked nuclear plant, said people with knowledge of the situation.”

    “Some 3.8 trillion yen has already been committed to pay compensation to evacuees of the 5 trillion yen that had been set aside. The additional borrowing framework would avoid a financing crunch for the project, the sources said.”



    “It is difficult to establish the total economic cost of the disaster. According to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union spent 18 billion rubles (the equivalent of US$18 billion at that time) on containment and decontamination, virtually bankrupting itself.[3] In Belarus the total cost over 30 years is estimated at US$235 billion (in 2005 dollars).[141] On-going costs are well known; in their 2003–2005 report, The Chernobyl Forum stated that between 5% and 7% of government spending in Ukraine is still related to Chernobyl, while in Belarus over $13 billion is thought to have been spent between 1991 and 2003, with 22% of national budget having been Chernobyl-related in 1991, falling to 6% by 2002.[141] Much of the current cost relates to the payment of Chernobyl-related social benefits to some 7 million people across the 3 countries.[141]

    A significant economic impact at the time was the removal of 784,320 ha (1,938,100 acres) of agricultural land and 694,200 ha (1,715,000 acres) of forest from production. While much of this has been returned to use, agricultural production costs have risen due to the need for special cultivation techniques, fertilizers and additives.[141]”

    To clean up an oil spill on land is “comparatively” trivial.


    “According to the US firm Enbridge Energy Partners’ filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, as of September 30, 2013, the cost of cleanup was $1.035 billion US, not including possible additional fines and penalties that might be imposed by US authorities in the future.”

    I actually find the spills on land bear no comparison to the spills on sea – see Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon, necessitated by our demand from overseas sources or offshore drilling, much more risky than any fracking or tar-sand extraction on land where those accidents – even in rivers – can be contained much easier.

    I therefore still find the transport of oil via pipeline from inland sources a much safer overall option – considering that without those non renewables in the midterm – for the next twenty to fifty years – our economies will tank.

  • chrisdevries

    kraut is correct in that as long as we require fossil fuels to maintain our standard of living, pipelines are an unfortunate necessity. But the alternatives, while imperfect, are not nearly as dismissible as he makes it seem.

    Hydroelectric power, for example, has several environmental impacts. It requires the creation of reservoirs which flood thousands of hectares of whatever ecosystem surrounds the river being dammed. In areas with large seasonal changes in water level, vegetation grown in the dry season on the banks of the smaller reservoir (which has consumed moderate amounts of atmospheric CO2 in its growth) is submerged by the rising water levels in the wet season and can decay anaerobically, under water in the larger reservoir, producing large amounts of methane, a more potent greenhouse gas. And hydroelectric power is vulnerable to the low water levels caused by droughts (both normal, natural dry years, and droughts that are clearly enhanced by the novel weather patterns that can be attributed to anthropogenic climate change).

    In a non-tropical/sub-tropical climate however, the methanogenesis is limited, both by the minor seasonal changes in water level, and the very small window of time in which the conditions are suitable for the kind of decay that produces methane. As the years pass, more and more of the initially-flooded vegetation will decay anaerobically, but large amounts of former vegetation will turn into peat and become buried by sediment. This peat can exist for thousands of years with only trace emissions of methane.

    So accepting a small amount of habitat loss, and a risk of lower-than-projected energy production for a few years at a time due to drought, hydroelectric power is clearly the safest, most sustainable and cheapest form of no-to-low-emission electricity generation. I suppose in the tropics, other sustainable alternatives must be discussed (solar, wind, wave, geothermal…all of which cannot meet our current energy demand right now but which *could* do so if we all required less energy), but we don’t live in the tropics. We need to focus on the emissions we can control before we worry about those in different parts of the world.

    I won’t get into nuclear power because ultimately, it is non-renewable and comes with the waste issue, but in certain situations, I still prefer it to the combustion of fossil fuels. But I truly think we should treat nuclear as a kind of methadone – a way to ease a transition into a lower-energy-consumption lifestyle in which we are no longer reliant on fossil fuels. People seem to think that this is a pipe dream, that politicians in their 2-6 year election cycles will never pass legislation that seeks to solve a long-term problem, especially if it is perceived to harm us in the short term. But society does change, and the politicians change with it. The anthropogenic climate change deniers will become irrelevant – already they seem to be concentrated among the older demographic, and many deniers become acceptors when they are directly impacted by an event that could have been caused or worsened by climate change.

    The fact is, this is no longer a long-term problem. It is a problem that will certainly be with us for a long time, but it is getting harder and harder to argue with the fact that we have, as a species, thrown a big wrench into the very complex “machinery” which regulates the variations in global climate, and that we are already being affected. We do not know exactly how screwed up things will become or for how long (assuming the anthropogenic source of greenhouse gases is significantly reduced). But, if for no other reason than our own comfort and survival, we need to significantly lower our greenhouse gas emissions. Burning fossil fuels for electricity is a major source of emissions, thus we need to stop doing this (if not altogether then at least reduce our energy obtained from fossil fuels to <5%). Biomass burning in tropical Asia and the Americas to produce land for agriculture also needs to stop – to do so, there needs to be reduced demand in the developed world for the products, like palm oil, which are produced from this destructive and unsustainable practice.

    By refusing to change, we are only postponing the moment at which we must change because the cost of continuing with the status quo is too high. Fossil fuels will become too expensive and rare; dismal air quality will be reducing urban life spans by a decade or more; the ecosystems we rely on to provide services like water purification, long-term carbon storage, food production (land, freshwater, saltwater) will be damaged or gone, in any case not performing those jobs effectively anymore. If even then, we resist change, I fear that the intelligent life experiment on Earth may end. Evolution is both a cruel taskmaster and the ultimate savior of life on Earth. By not changing we hasten our demise as a species – we can cause our own extinction after all, being poorly adapted to a world we transformed – but after the Anthropocene, the Earth will gradually recover from our impacts. A diversity of life will flourish once again. Without us.

    So this post got WAY off-topic, but my point stands. There is no choice, as far as I am concerned. We need to use our massive brains to figure out how to increase our energy efficiency as a species, so that fossil fuels are no longer needed for electricity generation (i.e. the electricity supplying the power grid). Eventually, we must stop burning them for transportation as well. The sooner we do all of this, the brighter our prospects, in both the short and long-term.