Enbridge gets OK to reverse pipeline flow east

Enbridge Pipelines Inc. will be allowed to reverse the flow on a portion of its Line 9 pipeline between Sarnia and Hamilton to flow east, the National Energy Board has decided.

National Energy Board approves change with safety conditions attached

Enbridge CEO, Patrick D. Daniel addresses shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Toronto, May 9. (Enbridge Inc./Canadian Press)

Pipeline giant Enbridge Pipelines Inc. will be allowed to reverse the flow on a portion of its Line 9 pipeline between Sarnia and Hamilton to flow east, the National Energy Board has decided.

Enbridge applied last August to reverse approximately 194 kilometres of pipeline between the Sarnia Terminal (at Sarnia, Ont.) and the North Westover Pump Station (near Hamilton, Ont.) to flow in an eastward direction.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt welcomed the board's decision saying it would bring more Western Canadian crude to eastern markets and reduce dependence on imported oil.

"Energy is a matter of national importance and our government welcomes efforts to better utilize our immense energy assets for the benefit of all Canadians," the former natural resources minister said in a written statement Friday.

"Energy is key to supporting the standard of living and quality of life for all Canadians. Over the past five years, the oil and gas industry has contributed an average of $22 billion a year to government revenues ... to help pay for everything, from education and health care to roads and bridges," added Raitt, who was speaking on behalf of Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

The board agreed to the pipeline reversal with 15 conditions, most having to do with pipeline integrity.

Safety and environmental concerns

Landowners, environmental and aboriginal groups had the opportunity to express their views with respect to the safety of the pipeline and possible impacts resulting from any possible accident or malfunction during public hearings which took place in London, Ont., in May.

The project involves infrastructure additions and modifications at four existing sites along the pipeline segment.

The reversal is expected to cost $16.9 million.

Meanwhile, Enbridge announced late Friday that it had contained a spill from a pipeline running through Grand Marsh, Wisconsin. A news release said the spill of roughly 1,200 barrels was confined to a field that is part of the pipeline right-of-way.

Two years ago, an Enbridge pipeline in southern Michigan ruptured and spilled some three million litres of crude into wetlands, a creek and the Kalamazoo River. The river was recently re-opened for recreational use.

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board earlier this month likened Enbridge's handling of the spill to that of the "Keystone Kops."

Premiers talk pipelines, national energy strategy

Earlier in the week, P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz and New Brunswick Premier David Alward said they would push for a west-to-east pipeline that could carry unrefined bitumen to refineries in eastern Canada.

Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz, second from left, and New Brunswick Premier David Alward, right, support a west-to-east pipeline. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"New Brunswick is very open to seeing a pipeline come from Alberta to Saint John and the refinery there," Alward said, speaking from a premier's conference in Halifax. "We're open for business and we're looking forward, if there is a business case, to seeing that come here."

The premiers have started to work on a national energy strategy led by Alberta Premier Alison Redford, but B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she's not interested in discussing a national strategy until Redford and the federal government sit down with her to address her conditions for the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The Northern Gateway project is a proposal by Enbridge to build two pipelines stretching 1,177 kilometres between the Alberta oilsands and Kitimat on B.C.'s west coast.

With files from The Canadian Press