Line 9 Pipeline is “High Risk” for Rupture, Says Pipeline Expert

The risk of a Line 9 pipeline oil spill in Ontario or Quebec is “high” if Enbridge's proposal for Line 9 is implemented, says pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz.  

Kuprewicz, who has forty years of experience in the energy industry, found that Enbridge's safety management system will not prevent a Line 9 rupture and described the pipeline company's leak detection system and emergency response plans as neither “adequate or appropriate.”  

“Enbridge has a culture where safety management seems not to be a critical part of their operation,” Kuprewicz wrote in the 31-page report released on August 5th. 

“This is the most damning indictment we’ve seen of Enbridge’s plan,” said Adam Scott of Environmental Defence in a statement. 

Enbridge's proposal is to reverse the 37-year old Line 9 pipeline to flow from Sarnia to Montreal and increase the capacity of Line 9 from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd). The company also wants to ship “heavy crude” such as bitumen from the Alberta tar sands through Line 9 for the first time.

“The Line 9 proposal should be rejected. Our communities, our drinking water and our shared environment shouldn’t be put at risk,” said Scott, who is based in Toronto.

Kuprewicz, who has held management positions in pipeline companies, stated there was a high risk of a rupture in the first few years of operations due to a combination of cracking and corrosion if Enbridge goes ahead with its proposal. The four hours it could take for Enbridge's emergency response teams to arrive on the scene of a Line 9 spill is, according to Kuprewicz, inadequate for highly populated cities along the pipeline's route, which include Toronto and Montreal.

“This evidence clearly shows what we have been saying for a long time. This project will put the health and the quality of the environment of our communities at risk both in Ontario and Quebec. In light of this, I cannot see how the NEB could approve this reckless project,” said Steven Guilbeault, Senior Director with Equiterre.

Line 9 passes through some of the most densely populated areas of Canada. The pipeline crosses every waterway flowing south to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Line 9 is located within five kilometers of Lake Ontario.

DeSmog Canada revealed previously that Line 9 suffers from the same design deficiencies as the Enbridge pipeline at the centre of the largest onshore oil spill in US history; the 2010 spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Kuprewicz helped with investigations into the Line 6B Kalamazoo spill. He reports that, much like Line 6B, Line 9 exhibited extensive stress corrosion cracking (SCC), a type of pipeline cracking prevalent where external corrosion occurs. Line 9 is covered in the same outdated external protective coating called polyethylene tape (PE-tape) that became unglued from Line 6B, which allowed the pipe to corrode from the outside and eventually rupture.

Kuprewicz's report states that transporting dilbit through Line 9 will substantially increase the rates of cracking on the pipeline. Line 6B was carrying dilbit when it ruptured. The spill sent pollution as far as 50 kilometers down the Kalamazoo River.



The report is part of written evidence submitted by a coalition of environmental organizations to the National Energy Board (NEB). The coalition includes organizations such as Sierra Club, Greenpeace Quebec, Equiterre and Environmental Defence. The NEB is Canada's independent regulator of pipeline projects and is currently deliberating over the Line 9 project.

Two energy economics experts – Ian Goodman and Brigid Rowan – also provided a report as part of the coalition's written evidence.  The experts found Line 9's close proximity to highly populated areas such as Montreal and Toronto could result in major economic damage if the pipeline ruptured. The potential economic costs of a Line 9 rupture could outweigh the potential economic benefits of the pipeline, concluded Goodman and Rowan.

Line 9 public hearings are expected to take place in October. The earliest the NEB can make a final decision on Line 9 is January 2014.

Image Credit: Environmental Defence, Enbridge, EPA

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