‘Human error’ to blame for 17-hour U.S. spill, HCA told
The owner of an oil pipeline that runs underneath Spencer Creek near the Beverly Swamp in Flamborough says it has learned from past mistakes and there’s no need to worry about a plan to reverse and increase the pipe’s flow.
Enbridge Pipeline Inc. representative Ken Hall said sections below waterways and roadways are half an inch thick – or double the rest of the line – and have isolation valves that allow it to be shut down “in a matter of minutes.”
Those safeguards will avoid a repeat of the massive spill in Michigan in July 2010 that sent more than three million litres of oil into the Kalamazoo River, he said in a presentation to Hamilton Conservation Authority directors.
Hall blamed the 17-hour spill on an operator who ignored a system alarm and protocols to shut down that line, a “human error” that prompted changes to operating procedures.
“Yes, there could be an incident,” Hall said, assuring directors a monitoring station in Edmonton would catch the problem.
“We would know about it almost instantaneously and we can start to take actions to control it, contain it and minimize the impact almost immediately.”
Enbridge is seeking federal approval to change the flow of crude oil in the section of pipe between Westover and Montreal to an easterly direction, a plan that will increase the average flow to 300,000 barrels per day from the present 240,000.
Hall said a polymer additive known as a drag-reducing agent will allow the higher flow without affecting the integrity of the pipeline, known as 9B.
The company already has approval to reverse the flow in Line 9A, which runs from Sarnia to Westover.
Hall said the 37-year-old pipeline will initially carry mainly light crude from Saskatchewan and North Dakota, but could also eventually ship heavier crude from the Alberta tar sands.
Authority directors thanked Hall for his presentation but took no action. They voted last month to support the city’s call for a federal environmental assessment of the line reversal.
Vice-chair Jim Howlett said even a three-minute rupture would spill “a lot of barrels,” calculating the flow at 20 barrels per second.
“If 20 barrels per second was to begin plummeting in this room when I first stated talking, we’d all be dead by the end of this sentence,” he said.
The National Energy Board has scheduled a week of hearings in August on the application, the location of which has yet to be announced.