Climate

57,000-Gallon Oil Spill In Canada Forces Closure Of Pipeline To U.S.

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Enbridge, Inc. an energy delivery company based in Alberta, Canada, experienced an oil spill from one of its pipelines on Wednesday.

Canadian energy delivery company Enbridge Inc. has temporarily shut down and isolated one of its crude oil pipelines that connects to the United States after a 1,350-barrel, or 56,700-gallon oil spill, the company reported Wednesday evening.

While the company said it’s not sure how long the cleanup will take or when the pipeline will be re-opened, it insisted that no oil was spilled out of the area within the Regina Terminal in Saskatchewan, where the incident occurred. It’s not yet clear what kind of oil was released — the 796,000 barrel-a-day Line 4 pipeline, which connects to a terminal in Wisconsin, carries heavy, medium, and light sour crude.

“There are no impacts to the public, wildlife or waterways,” Enbridge said in a statement. “Nearby residents and businesses may detect a faint odour.”

A spokesman for Enbridge told Reuters that the spill happened because of a problem with a valve within the terminal, and not because of a problem with the actual pipeline. He called it a “relatively easy fix,” but did not give a timeline for when the system would be back in action. Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Canada’s National Energy Board would meet with Enbridge officials on Friday to discuss when the line could return to service.

Enbridge itself is a large player in oil pipelines, both in Canada and the United States. It has made headlines here due to its role in the largest and most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history, an event which saw more than 800,000-gallons of thick Canadian tar sands crude oil flow out of a ruptured Enbridge pipeline and into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

That spill was also the costliest inland oil spill in U.S. history, with Enbridge estimating cleanup costs alone to be about $1.2 billion. That doesn’t include reimbursements to homeowners and nearby residents who were impacted.

The reason why that spill was particularly disastrous was because of the type of oil involved: Canadian tar sands crude oil, which Enbridge frequently transports. When it spills, tar sands oil does not float on top of water like conventional crude. Instead, it gradually sinks to the bottom, making normal cleanup techniques and equipment of little use. Tar sands oil is too thick to transport in its original state, so it also needs chemicals like benzene to liquefy it for pipelines. That means that when tar sands spill, those chemicals evaporate into the air.

Following the incident Wednesday evening, Enbridge said it was launching an investigation into the cause of the spill, and would take the results into serious consideration when attempting to prevent spills in the future.

“We are committed to the goal of reaching zero spills and will thoroughly investigate the incident for lessons learned,” Enbridge’s statement said.