Enbridge shuts down Norman Wells pipeline, citing 'stability concerns' along riverbank

The pipeline carrying oil south from Norman Wells has been shut down due to "stability concerns" on the banks of the Mackenzie River. Mayor Nathan Watson says he does not believe electricity service will be affected.

No word yet how long shutdown will last, town prepared to switch to diesel power

Enbridge has shut down its Line 21 pipeline in the Northwest Territories between Norman Wells and Fort Simpson.

The company said in a statement that "stability concerns" on the banks of the Mackenzie River are what led to the shutdown.

"Protecting the Mackenzie River and surrounding environment is our top priority and recent changes along the south slope prompted this preventative action," the company said.

According to the National Energy Board, the pipe was shut down Nov. 18. 

Norman Wells Mayor Nathan Watson says he's been told erosion may have caused slippage of the riverbank, potentially adding stress to the pipe below. 

"Erosion is doing its thing to the banks of the Mackenzie River," he said. 

Increased erosion along the Mackenzie River is one of the observed impacts of climate change.

No oil has been spilled, according to the company. 

Watson does not know how long the pipeline will remain shut down, and Enbridge says it is "doing further evaluation and collecting additional data that will inform our next steps." 

Imperial Oil says it has "has reduced production to minimal operation status as a precaution" in case of a long shutdown to the pipeline. 

Concerns about power supply

Watson said residents are concerned about the town's power supply. The Norman Wells oil field produces the gas that powers the town. Without the pipeline operating, oil and gas production will have to stop after local storage space is full. 

"If the pipeline remains shut down… then they'll shut the [oil] field in, which means we'll be on backup diesel-generated electricity provided by [Northwest Territories Power Corporation]," he said.

Watson added the town has enough diesel to last until more fuel can be brought in on the winter road.

"They have assured us that they're prepared to meet the town's energy needs right now."