How We Respond
For Enbridge, our primary duty is to protect the safety of people and the environment while safely delivering the energy we all count on. That means anticipating and addressing potential problems to prevent incidents long before they occur. This approach guides every one of our decisions, actions and interactions as we plan and build new projects, and as we operate and maintain our systems, every day.
Strong response, conservative approach, safe pipeline
It started at 2:21 p.m. on April 3, 2018 with a phone call from Enbridge’s Leak Detection Team to Control Center Operations in Edmonton, Alberta, the nerve center of the company’s network of crude oil pipelines stretching across North America.
They weren’t calling about a leak. Rather, the team was informing the Control Center that there was a chance that two days before, on April 1, something had contacted our Line 5 pipeline in the busy Straits of Mackinac, where other submarine utilities also crossed the waterway. The pipeline was operating within normal pressures and flow rates, with no abnormal indications, but a local power company was investigating what appeared to be anchor damage to one of its underwater electrical cables nearby.
“The Great Lakes Region had become aware of the issues with the nearby electrical cables, and they reached out to our Leak Detection team, which they knew was running a pilot test of some new hydrophone technology that listened to the pipes for the acoustic signature of anchor strikes,” says Maury Porter, Manager of Enbridge’s Pipeline Control Technical Services Group in the Control Center. “The leak detection team called us in the Control Centre right away and told us what they were looking at. At that point we were still running normally, but as soon we learned that the power company was investigating damaged cables, and that the leak detection team thought their pilot system might have detected the sound of an impact on our pipeline, we shut down and began our due diligence to make sure the pipeline was okay.”
By 2:30, less than 10 minutes after the call had come in, operators had shut down Line 5 and begun the work to assess its integrity and confirm that it was fit for duty.
“We spent the day doing system integrity checks. We isolated the pipeline and we looked to see if our pressures were holding the way we expected them to. That looked good. Our leak detection models were showing no abnormalities, so that was good. And we had crews in the field, actually looking at the Straits,” Maury says. “We were confident that the line was intact and that there were no integrity concerns.”
But later in the day the Leak Detection team came back with more information. They were now more confident that the suspect acoustic signature the hydrophones had picked up did, in fact, sound like an anchor strike. And, says Maury, “we learned that there had actually been a ship in the channel, above the line, at the time that the hydrophones picked up the sound.”
Faced with conflicting information – on the one hand the pipeline was holding pressure and showed no signs of a leak, and on the other there was mounting evidence that the line had been struck by an anchor – the control center operators did what they are trained to do and kept the line shut down until they could confirm that it was safe to restart.
“Everything was pointing to the pipe being fine, but we still wanted more confirmation from further analysis or another tool that would give us even more confidence,” Maury said.
While shut down overnight, the pipeline continued to hold pressure and behave as expected, so on the afternoon of April 4 local teams ran a gauge tool through the lines, which confirmed that the pipelines had not been seriously dented.
“We were confident that the system was intact,” Maury says. In the end, he said, Enbridge kept the line shut down for more than 24 hours as the company undertook all the steps necessary to validate the integrity of the system.
Over the coming weeks, Enbridge would send divers and remotely operated vehicles down below the waves to assess the damage from the outside. Crews also ran a smart ball through the lines to listen for small leaks, as well as in line inspection tools to assess the health of the pipeline from the inside. Through this work Enbridge identified three dents in the twin 20-inch diameter pipelines. The dents in the nearly inch-thick steel wall of the pipelines were several across and less than an inch deep.
Maury credits Enbridge’s focus on safety as the key driver in the response by everyone involved.
“The continued focus on communication and safety really drove to a true understanding of what had happened and what the condition of the pipe was,” he says. “It showed the benefit of making sure that everyone is communicating and all the information is out on the table to allow for effective decision making, ensuring you’re doing the right thing and avoiding confirmation bias.”
Calming a 'stormy' situation and halting erosion
For Enbridge, how we respond goes beyond incidents related to our pipelines, facilities and distribution systems. How we respond also encompasses the way we engage with the communities where we live and work, whether it’s a problem to be solved or a finding a way to help those neighborhoods be safer or better environmental stewards.
On Deerview Road, in Minnesota’s Henrietta Township, that mindset helped to address a longstanding problem with stormwater runoff into a nearby lake.
Canoes floating on front lawns are generally the stuff of national TV newscasts, but unfortunately for the residents of Deerview Road, it was becoming an all-to-common occurrence.
“One landowner at the low point (of the road) took a video in a one-and-a-half-inch rain event, and you could kayak on the stream running through his yard to the lake,” recalls Julie Kingsley, district manager with the Park Rapids-based Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“This year, we had three five-inch rain events—two of them before we addressed the problem.”
Address it they did, during a month-long span over the summer, thanks – in part – to a $105,000 grant from Enbridge through the company’s Ecofootprint Grant Program. Enbridge established the program in 2015 to support environmental restoration and improvement efforts in the communities crossed by our Line 3 Replacement project.
In collaboration with the township, Hubbard County SWCD installed a storm-water and erosion reduction system along Deerview Road to prevent untreated storm water run-off from flowing directly into Long Lake—one of the 200 most phosphorous-sensitive lakes in Minnesota.
Designed for a 100-year storm event, the system included a series of rain gardens and rock-check dams along the widened road, designed to retain storm water, hold back sediment, and allow infiltration. The system also included three underground storm-water retention chambers for further infiltration.
And yes, says Kingsley, the new system does what it was supposed to do.
“It has remedied the problem. We’ve had a four-inch rain event since it was put in, and the storm water didn’t go anywhere. The rain gardens were dry; everything was dry. The new system handled it.”.
Your role in safe energy delivery
How you can help
Enbridge’s highest priority is—and always must be—the safety of the public, the communities where we live and work, of the approximately 13,600 members of our team across North America, and of the environment.
Every member of the Enbridge team strives to transport, generate and deliver the energy North America relies on as safely as possible. You have a role to play in the safe and reliable operation of the energy systems that power our communities and society as well.
There are two key ways you can contribute to the safety and reliability of Enbridge’s systems in your community. First, make sure to call or click before you dig.
It’s free, helps prevent accidental damage to our systems and could save your life.
In the United States call 8-1-1, and in Canada visit clickbeforeyoudig.com, two to three working days before you plan to do any excavation—from landscaping activities like planting trees, digging a new garden or building fences, to clearing brush or larger construction work—so that a locator can visit and mark underground utilities.
Second, be aware of the warning signs of a pipeline or gas distribution system leak and know what to do to stay safe in the event of an emergency.
If an incident occurs, your quick action and notification of emergency services and Enbridge can save lives and help protect your home, your community and the environment.
If you suspect a pipeline or gas distribution system leak or emergency, first make sure that you and those around you are safe and then, as soon as it is safe to do so, call 9-1-1 and then call Enbridge’s 24-hour emergency hotline for your area.