We believe all pipeline incidents can be prevented. We back up that belief with vigilance, hard work and an abundance of caution.
Explore our commitment to pipeline safety on land and water.
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When it comes to fueling the quality of people’s lives, safety and reliability are built in to our energy infrastructure – and they’re in place long before we begin to build and operate any of our systems.
An overview of our approach to pipeline safety.DOWNLOAD THE PDF
We regularly fly all of our 27,000 km (17,000 miles) of crude oil and liquids pipelines—watching out for potential issues, including excavation or third-party activity near our pipelines that might pose a risk to safety.
We plan all routes in consultation with landowners, First Nations, Metis and Native Americans, neighboring communities, environmental groups and regulators. We propose routes chosen to minimize the impact on the land, the environment and wildlife.
We communicate regularly with our neighbors about our systems, projects and operations, to make sure they know how to stay safe around our facilities, pipelines and distribution systems. This helps to reduce third-party damage, one of the leading causes of pipeline leaks.
We regularly patrol pipeline rights-of-way, continuously monitor our emergency hotlines, and respond to any potential problems along our rights-of-way.
Buried utilities deliver important services we all rely on—such as electricity, water, cable and data, as well as oil and gas transportation and distribution. To protect public safety, and the systems that deliver these key services, one-call and online programs exist across the United States and Canada for anyone planning to dig, whether it's construction excavation or landscaping activities like planting trees or building fences and decks.
We monitor our entire pipeline network around the clock, 365 days a year, from our dedicated pipeline control center.
Specially trained staff, working with sophisticated computer monitoring systems,
keep a close watch over the operation of our pipeline network to keep it running safely and reliably.
Specialized monitoring systems continually analyze pressure, temperature, and other important information from thousands of points along our pipelines.
We use GPS and advanced imaging technology to confirm the depth and exact locations of our pipelines and to detect ground movement.
Enbridge is testing promising new external leak detection systems to add to our toolkit. These include sophisticated devices that use sensitive acoustic sensing to “listen” for leaks. We’ve led industry partnerships to test innovative leak detection methods, including vapor-sensing tubes, fiber optic cables, and hydrocarbon-sensing cables.
The safety of our pipelines starts with the best steel and the best-made pipe—the gold standard when it comes to pipelines.
Learn more about our partnership with EVRAZ.
Delivering energy safely is a science that’s becoming increasingly sophisticated.
We engage leading experts in the field to advance and refine inline inspection technology. This includes supporting the research, development and testing of new tools and technologies.Explore our Innovation section
We start with precisely manufactured pipe that is carefully selected and tested. Corrosion-inhibiting coatings and cathodic protection are built right in to every project.
We incorporate special design requirements and construction techniques, such as Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD), in areas like water crossings. We inspect every weld joint using ultrasonic or X-ray testing before the pipeline is laid.
Enbridge's ongoing preventative maintenance program includes regular examinations of our pipes, using our in-line inspection tools, and preventative maintenance digs—some of which may happen in your area. Our focus on prevention is one aspect of our multi-pronged approach to safety.
Maintaining the fitness of our pipes is key to ensuring a safe network. We’ve never experienced an internal corrosion failure on our mainline network, and we employ multiple measures to ensure pipeline fitness, including:
- Robust pipeline coatings to curb corrosion;
- Regular monitoring and inspections;
- Cathodic protection—applying a low electrical current to the steel in the pipeline—to protect against corrosion;
- Enforcing stringent quality standards—for viscosity, density, temperature and other factors—for every batch of oil entering our pipeline network;
- Maintaining a high flow rate on our transmission lines to minimize corrosion;
- Injecting chemicals into the oil in our lines to neutralize corrosion; and
- Regular inline cleaning with specialized tools.
We are focused on preventing incidents before they occur, and ongoing pipeline inspections play a key role in our prevention strategy.
We complete an average of more than 200 in-line inspections annually on our pipeline and distribution systems. These inspections allow us to monitor the physical condition of the pipelines from the inside out, using sophisticated tools to gather the information we need to keep our systems healthy and in excellent condition.
We hydrostatically test all new pipelines prior to putting them into service.
Each pipe section is filled with water and subjected to 1.25 to 1.5 times the maximum allowable operating pressure to ensure the strength and structural integrity of the pipe, welded joints, valves and fittings.
As with all our activities, we conduct hydrostatic testing with a focus on protecting the safety of our neighbors and the public, our employees and the environment.
Jeremy Ward's phone rang at 10:37 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2015. One of Enbridge's pipeline inspection providers, Pure Technologies, was calling.READ JEREMY'S STORY
Jeremy Ward's phone rang at 10:37 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2015. One of Enbridge's pipeline inspection providers, Pure Technologies, was calling.
That afternoon a local Enbridge pipeline maintenance crew and a team from the inspection company had retrieved a SmartBall tool from Line 21, which carries crude oil from Norman Wells in Canada’s Northwest Territories to Alberta. The tool had traveled inside a segment of the pipeline over the previous number of days, its acoustic sensors listening for any telltale sounds that could indicate a tiny leak.
“It’s never going to be good news when you get a late-night call after you’ve pulled an inspection tool,” says Jeremy, who is a member of the team that manages and monitors the health of Enbridge’s pipelines. “Whenever we retrieve a tool, the vendor takes a quick look at the data, to see if there’s anything that jumps out as needing urgent attention. That’s why they were calling. They had found what looked like signs of a leak.”
Within minutes, Jeremy had informed his boss and then contacted the Control Centre Operations in Edmonton, and by 10:47 p.m., ten minutes after the call from Pure Technologies, Enbridge had shut the line down.
What followed over the next few days was a race against time involving nearly two dozen people to determine the exact location where the SmartBall had heard something and to get a team on the ground to investigate.
By Saturday morning the team had identified a 2 km (1.2 mile) stretch of pipeline about 415 km (260 miles) south of Norman Wells. A crew flew to the location and did an aerial and ground search. They found no signs of a leak.
“At the same time other members of the team were back at the office, reviewing data from previous inline inspections, including from a different tool we’d pulled from the line on the same day, to see if they could find any other evidence to help us refine our search,” says Jeremy.
Over the weekend, based on more detailed analysis of the data, the ground team searched six specific nearby locations along the pipeline. Still no evidence of a leak.
“While this was all happening, the controllers in Edmonton were watching the pressure in the pipeline,” Jeremy says. “It held steady, which is a good sign that there are no leaks and the system is intact.”
Even with this positive news, Enbridge proceeded with caution. For three more days, as the investigation progressed, it kept the line shut down. On Wednesday, April 22, Enbridge safely restarted Line 21.
“At the end of it, after we’d gone through all the procedures, it turned out to be a false alarm,” Jeremy says. “Some people might look at that and say it was a waste of effort, but I don’t think so. That’s our approach to safety. We weren’t going to restart that line until we’d run down every lead and considered every possibility to confirm it was safe.”
Program Manager, Pipeline Integrity
Walter Kresic, Enbridge’s VP in charge of monitoring and managing the health of our liquids pipelines, talks about in-line inspections, one of the important tools we use to keep our systems in excellent condition.READ WALTER'S STORY
In 2014 we completed 205 in-line inspections across all our systems, sending sophisticated tools through our pipelines to check on their condition from the inside. But what does an inline inspection involve?
“On our crude oil pipeline systems the process of doing an inline inspection involves dozens of people,” Walter says. “From field personnel and our control center operators to the extended teams who oversee the health of our pipelines and the external partners we work with to continually refine and improve the sensitivity and accuracy of the tools we use to ensure our systems are in top shape.”
While each in-line inspection is unique, a typical one is planned months in advance. Before we run our inspection tools through a section of pipeline, we must first run other tools to clean and prepare the pipe so it is ready to be scanned from the inside out.
Only then can an in-line inspection take place. The tools, which use ultrasound or a technology similar to that found in a medical MRI scanner, is introduced to the pipe and is propelled along by the oil flowing through the system.
“The oil on our systems moves at between 2.5 and 5 miles (4 and 8 km) per hour, about as fast as a person walks, so it can take days or even weeks for an in-line inspection tool to travel along the pipeline. All the while it is scanning the pipe from the inside, collecting and storing a huge amount of information about the condition of the pipeline on a millimeter by millimeter basis,” Walter says.
“Further down the line we retrieve the tool and download the inspection data. Our expert engineers and external specialists then pore over this data, completing a preliminary review within hours to quickly identify anything that requires immediate action, followed up by a deeper analysis over the following weeks and months, to identify and locate features within the pipeline that require closer attention over the longer term.”
All told, Walter says, a typical inspection, from when we first start planning to when we have completed the run through the pipe, analyzed the data and passed along our findings to the pipeline maintenance teams, costs millions of dollars and takes approximately 12 months.
Each in-line inspection is a big, complex job involving many people and lots of resources," says Walter. "Across Enbridge we've done nearly 700 of them in the last three years because it's an important part of how we keep our pipelines in great shape and operating safely.
Vice President of Pipeline Integrity
While our primary focus is on preventing incidents from occurring, it's also important to be prepared. We hope we never have to respond to a pipeline leak—but if we do, we're ready.LEARN MORE
Special techniques are used for crossing bodies of water—including overwater pipelines,
in-water pipelines and tunnelling under the river bed itself.
Isolation valves, which control or stop the flow of crude oil, are a key piece of pipeline safety equipment. We monitor our pipeline system 24/7/365, and we can remotely close a valve immediately on detection of a potential problem—with full closure within three minutes of activation.
See how we use isolation valves in a variety of situations to control the flow of crude oil and liquids in our pipelines.
We use horizontal directional drilling to minimize disturbance and increase the safety of our systems when we lay pipelines beneath large rivers or sensitive crossings.
As with surface examinations, our high-tech in-line inspection tools examine the pipe inch by inch, from the inside out.
In special cases, like our Line 5 Straits of Mackinac underwater crossing, we also use specially trained scuba divers and remotely operated submersibles to thoroughly examine the pipe’s exterior and its immediate environment.
In northern Michigan, we take special precautions to ensure the continued safe and reliable operation of Line 5 as it crosses under the Straits of Mackinac.
Our suite of safety measures includes regular inspections (including inline tools, expert divers and remotely operated vehicles); diligent, 24/7 monitoring;
and proactive maintenance to support the Line 5 crossing's extraordinary design and construction standards.
Learn more about our approach to water protection and usage.