By Catherine O’Hara, REVIEW STAFF
The National Energy Board (NEB) granted an application by Enbridge Pipelines Inc. to reverse the flow of oil to a section of Line 9, which runs between Sarnia and Westover. But before any light crude can flow in an easterly direction, the company will need further approval from the regulator.
The application, put forward by Enbridge in August 2011, was based largely on Imperial Oil’s request to transport oil from Canada’s western provinces and North Dakota to the company’s Nanticoke refinery as the cost of international crude is up to $30 more expensive than North American crude.
“That’s what we’ll be able to do now,” said Enbridge spokesperson, Graham White, of the plan’s approval.
Reversing the flow to parts of Line 9 is a $16.9-million project the company hopes to have complete by mid-2013.
While the pipeline runs from Sarnia to Montreal, only the 246-kilometre stretch between the Sarnia Terminal and North Westover Pump Station has been approved. And 15 conditions, imposed by the NEB, must be met and approved before Enbridge can flip the switch on the eastward flow.
The NEB’s binding conditions were penned to guarantee the pipeline’s integrity, as well as ensure that contingency measures are in place in the event of a spill or other malfunction.
“We’ll comply, absolutely, with all the conditions,” assured White, adding that the project will require some modifications to the existing 30-inch steel pipeline at the Sarnia and Westover locations.
Already, Enbridge has undertaken various pipeline inspections, including digs, which sees crews excavate the line to visually scrutinize its exterior. Further internal inspections, using in-line tools, will also take place to ensure the pipeline’s integrity.
To meet the demands of its clients, Enbridge anticipates the line will carry more light crude. In its application, the company says it wants to increase volumes from the current 152,000 to 169,000 barrels per day (bpd) with the possibility of expanding capacity to 250,000 bdp.
In the spring, a two-day NEB hearing was held into Enbridge’s proposal, which drew criticism from groups concerns about the project.
Environmental Defence, a national environmental action organization, believes the plan will put sensitive areas at risk, including a number of rivers and creeks, the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario.
“Enbridge’s plan would turn Ontario into a corridor of risky tar sands oil and threaten the places Ontarians care about with oil spills,” said Environmental Defence’s Gillian McEachern in a recent interview with the Review.
The group, and others opposed to the transportation of the material, believe the diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands poses a far greater risk of spills than crude oil, as its acidic concentration is far greater than that of light crude oil and contains “abrasive” materials that, under pressure and heat, can cause an augmented risk of corrosion, which could lead to pipe ruptures.
Enbridge, in its application, states Line 9 will continue to transport light crude. But the company is preparing the line to take heavier product if needed or requested, said White.
This, according to the NEB, would require further approval from the regulator, as Line 9’s current approved tariff does not permit the transportation of heavy crude oil.
“Under the tariff, Enbridge can only ship and impose a toll for the transportation of light and medium petroleum products with defined densities and viscosities,” reads the board’s decision. “In the future, if Enbridge wishes to transport heavy crude oil on Line 9, it will need to apply to the Board for this change under… the NEB Act.”…