Reversal of Enbridge's Line 9B to begin this month

Beginning this month, the flow of the pipeline will be reversed to bring 300,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta's oil sands to Montreal's refineries.

Pipeline set to bring Western oil to Montreal refineries finally after string of delays

The flow on Enbridge's Line 9 will be reversed to bring crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Montreal. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

After years of negotiations and months of testing, oil is set to flow west to east again in Enbridge's Line 9B.

Starting this month, the flow of the pipeline will be reversed to bring 300,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta's oil sands to Montreal's refineries.

The exact date for the oil to start flowing hasn't been disclosed. Enbridge says it's already pumping oil into the line as scheduled — but it's not actually moving.

"And so what we can expect is before the end of the year, in December, first deliveries will be made to our refineries in Montreal and Quebec," said Éric Prud'Homme, a spokesman for Enbridge.

The pipeline was first built in 1976 to carry oil from Sarnia, Ont., to Montreal.

The flow reversal is taking place on the 9B section of its Line 9 pipeline. (Enbridge)

In 1998, the flow was reversed when foreign oil was cheap, and imports were transported from eastern ports to western refineries.

But when Canadian oil prices dropped below that of imports, Enbridge asked the National Energy Board to once again change the direction of the flow.

The road to approval hasn't been easy for Enbridge, Canada's largest oil distributor.

It was plagued with delays and there was plenty of opposition along the way.

Most of the delays were due to environmental concerns raised by municipalities on the line's path. The NEB also added additional conditions along the way.

These delays cost the company about $90 million this year.

Environmental groups raise concern

Opposition from activists has also been fierce.

Just last weekend, at a youth climate conference, environmentalists drafted a declaration against oil sands in general.

"The principal reason why our coalition was against the pipeline is because of its impact on climate change," said Anthony Garoufalis-Auger, co-ordinator of the Coalition for Youth Against the Pipelines.

"It's going to lead to an increase in the tar sands. The science is telling us we need to reduce our emissions drastically."

Enbridge says it has done its homework and insists its infrastructure is safe.

"We have of course many sensors across the pipeline that will check on volumes, on pressure," Prud'homme said.

Aerial surveillance by helicopter will also increase while the line is filled this month, he added.

Montreal's metropolitan community, which represents 80 municipalities in the area, says it's satisfied by the conditions the NEB has imposed on Enbridge, and it'll keep a close watch on the pipeline.


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