A ‘modern miracle’: The quick completion of Canada’s first long-haul crude oil pipeline

Enbridge was created 70 years ago today; 18 months later, Line 1 began delivering newfound prosperity and security

Sixty-five years later, Craigellachie suddenly had company.

In October 1950, when Canada’s first long-haul crude oil pipeline entered service, members of the press were calling it a “latter-day last spike” in reference to the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, whose last spike was driven home in Craigellachie, British Columbia in 1885.

After all, the concept of a pipeline to service the nascent Canadian oilpatch was considered a mere “dream” in 1948, a year after the Leduc discovery. And after the Interprovincial Pipe Line Co.’s 1,150-mile Edmonton-Lakehead pipeline—now known as Enbridge’s Line 1—was built in a mere 150 days, it was hailed as “one of the biggest engineering feats in Canadian history” by the press of the era.

Seventy years ago today, on April 30, 1949, Interprovincial Pipe Line (which eventually became Enbridge) was created by Canadian Parliament.

Less than 18 months later, oil began flowing through Canada’s first true energy highway—moving Alberta crude to eastern markets, immediately boosting domestic content for Canadian refineries from 20 to 33 percent, and creating new prosperity and security for Canada that has lasted for decades.

Canadian Minister of Trade and Commerce C.D. Howe attended a Line 1 valve-turning ceremony in Edmonton on Oct. 3, 1950, which drew news reporters from across the continent, and called it “a Canadian event of the first order.”

Howe said the $100-million pipeline from Edmonton to Superior, Wisconsin “was more than an enterprising business venture. It is an essential factor in our preparedness program for the defence of Canada.”

When oil on Line 1 first reached Regina a few weeks later, Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas called the project timeline “a modern miracle . . . 10 years ago, if anyone had dared suggest the possibility of completing a project of this size in less than six months, he would have been called a dreamer and a visionary.”

Our history

Since 1949, Enbridge has played an essential role in developing the energy infrastructure you rely on.

A pipeline company is born: Enbridge turns 70

On April 30, 1949, Canada's Parliament incorporated Interprovincial Pipe Line (now known as Enbridge), following a major oil discovery at Leduc, Alberta in February 1947.

Some facts and figures about this “latter-day last spike”:

  • The pipeline required 175,000 tons of high-test steel, enough to build five battleships;
  • The simple act of filling Line 1 required 1,838,000 barrels (or 64.3 million gallons) of oil, which at the time was enough to supply Canada’s entire needs for six days;
  • Of its initial 90,000-barrel-per-day capacity, about 25,000 bpd were delivered to Saskatchewan refineries, 15,000 more to Manitoba refineries, and the remaining 50,000 to Superior;
  • Until the completion of Enbridge’s Line 5 in 1953, oil piped to Superior was transported to Sarnia via the Great Lakes by tankers including the Imperial Leduc, which at the time was the world’s largest fresh-water tanker.

In the decades that followed, Enbridge’s crude oil and liquids network continued to grow, reaching Detroit in 1960, Buffalo in 1963, Chicago in 1968 and Montreal in 1976.

Interprovincial Pipe Line’s average deliveries first topped the one-million-barrels-per day mark in 1972.

Today, Enbridge’s network delivers more than 3 million barrels of crude and liquids a day—transporting nearly two-thirds of U.S.-bound Canadian exports, and ensuring a safe and reliable supply of energy that fuels North Americans’ quality of life.