Enbridge Pipelines Inc. is expanding the amount of oil running through a decades-old Hamilton area pipeline by tens of thousands of barrels a day — and the city is upset it wasn’t consulted over the project.
The oil giant is in the midst of expanding the flow through the almost six-decades old Line 7 pipeline, which runs from Sarnia to the Westover Terminal in Flamborough. The line had been carrying 147,000 barrels per day, but will soon be carrying 180,000 barrels per day, an increase of about 22 per cent.
The National Energy Board (NEB) approved the project back in November. The expansion project started this month and is slated for completion by the end of July.
Though no specific NEB regulations dictate that the city must be informed about the project, city staff is nonetheless irritated they weren’t told about any expansion.
“Clearly we are not pleased,” said Guy Paparella, the city’s director of growth planning. “We do believe we should be consulted and we are following up with Enbridge and the NEB to avoid issues like this in the future.”
“We had not been contacted proactively by Enbridge,” said Ward 1 Coun. Brian McHattie. “It definitely raises some concerns.”
Enbridge representatives say the city wasn’t notified because Hamilton residents won’t notice the project construction or the “outcome once the project is complete.”
“We determined that the scope and location of the Project work at North Westover and Westover facilities are not anticipated to affect nearby residents as the activities are of a small scale, will take place entirely within the boundaries of Enbridge’s facilities, and will likely be indistinguishable from the facilities’ day-to-day operations,” Enbridge spokesperson Ken Hall said in an email to the city after it inquired about the work on the line.
“No one is going to notice anything,” Enbridge spokesperson Graham White told CBC Hamilton. “They’re not going to see anything.”
Expanding the pipeline’s flow won’t involve any wholesale construction or rebuilding, White says. Instead, a “drag reducing agent” or DRA will be injected into the crude oil flowing through Line 7, which allows it to flow with less friction.
That drop in friction will allow for a capacity increase of 33,000 barrels a day with a “minimal requirement for new infrastructure,” according to Enbridge.
Line 7’s capacity expansion has come with little controversy — especially compared to the outcry that accompanied Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal. The company is currently waiting on an NEB decision on whether it can reverse the flow and increase the capacity of Line 9, which runs alongside Line 7 in some areas.
Opponents to the Line 9 reversal, some of whom have staged protests and held sit-ins at pumping stations like the one in Flamborough, worry that Enbridge plans to run a heavier, and what they claim is a more corrosive, kind of oil through the line that will stress the aging infrastructure and increase the chance of a leak.
Enbridge is still cleaning up in Michigan after a pipeline ruptured and spilled 3.3 million litres of oil into the Kalamazoo River.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the company to return to the river to dredge areas where the agency believes remains of the heavy bitumen fossil fuel have collected.
The Kalamazoo incident is the largest on-land spill in the history of the U.S., and has already cost Enbridge more than $1 billion.