Enbridge Pipelines Inc. - Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project - Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Why was this project reviewed through a public hearing?

Applications like Line 9B, filed under section 58 of the National Energy Board Act, do not automatically trigger a public hearing. However, the Board decided that it was in the interest of Canadians to assess this application by way of a hearing.

Q2. What were some of the key issues heard during this hearing?

The Board issued a List of Issues (Appendix I, page 14) [Filing A50521] for this project on February 19, 2013. The List of Issues provides direction about the general topics the Board will consider as part of a hearing process and helps keep everyone focused.

During the oral hearing, the Board heard concerns about whether or not the pipeline would be safe. Some participants were concerned that if there was a pipeline spill, there would be significant environmental impacts and that drinking water could be impacted.

In that regard, the Board heard concerns about the current and potential locations for valves along Line 9 as a means of limiting the volume of a spill and its potential effects.

The Board heard from Participants about the need for Enbridge’s consultation and communication with affected communities to be transparent, genuine, ongoing, structured, collaborative and consistent. This was of particular concern for municipalities with respect to emergency response plans.

Some concerns were raised that are not within the Board’s mandate to regulate, such as oilsands development, energy policy, upstream greenhouse gasses (GHGs) and GHGs related to the end use of crude oil.

Q3. How did the NEB address these concerns?

Many of the conditions attached to the NEB’s approval of this project were intended to address concerns raised during the hearing.

Anytime we approve a project, we include conditions. Conditions are legal requirements that a company must do if they wish to move forward with their project. The purpose of conditions is to mitigate the risks and effects posed by a project to make sure the project is designed, constructed and operated in a way that protects human health and the environment. Conditions could be engineering requirements, emergency response requirements, restrictions on the timing of construction, and the completion of studies such as traditional land use investigations.

As part of our hearing, we prepared draft conditions and asked participants to provide their input and suggestions on how they could be improved.

Often, a condition will require the applicant to seek the Board’s approval before they are allowed to proceed with a particular activity such as construction or starting operations.

For this project, the Board imposed 30 conditions on the project, including:

  • Enbridge must conduct biweekly ground patrols to inspect for pipeline leaks during the first two years of Line 9B operations.
  • Enbridge must conduct quarterly specialized pipeline integrity testing along the full length of Line 9 for the first two years of operation. Integrity test results must also be submitted to the NEB upon request.
  • Enbridge must conduct an additional internal, or in-line, inspection within the first year of operation. The company must submit results of this test to the NEB for review.

The Board also said that before Line 9B becomes operational, hydrostatic testing results of three segments of the pipeline must be provided to and approved by the NEB.

Q4. What is hydrostatic testing?

Hydrostatic testing, or hydrotesting, is one of several commonly used methods to verify the integrity, or condition, of the pipeline. Essentially this is testing a pipeline for strength and leaks. The pipeline is filled and pressurized with water, and then examined for leaks or ruptures.

A hydrostatic test provides a snapshot of a single point in time; it does not predict the probability of future issues with the pipe.

Q5. Why did the Board direct Enbridge to carry out hydrostatic testing on Line 9B?

Information filed by Enbridge revealed a probability that ‘false negatives’ for metal loss and cracking exist in the pipeline. False negatives indicate that there are issues not reported by in-line inspection tools but are found when sections of the pipeline are excavated and inspected directly.

Given that Line 9B is located in a heavily urbanized area with a large number of waterways, the Board required a higher degree of confidence in the integrity, or condition, of the pipeline to show that it is safe to operate.

Q6. How does the Board ensure compliance?

We have a number of tools that we use to ensure that the companies that we regulate are meeting their commitments. The Board routinely conducts compliance meetings and inspections of pipeline projects to verify regulatory compliance. The Board also conducts audits of company management systems. These regulatory activities continue throughout the life of a project.

Each year the NEB conducts targeted compliance verification activities including six comprehensive audits and at least 150 inspections of regulated companies. This is in addition to the 100+ technical meetings and exercises conducted on an annual basis. These tools are effective in allowing the Board to proactively detect and correct non-compliances before they become issues.

Q7. Do companies carry out inline inspection of their pipelines while they are operating?

Yes. Companies commonly carry out inline inspections of their pipelines while they are operating, and as needed, throughout operation.

In-line inspections tools are used to identify, locate, and measure anomalies. An instrumented vehicle is propelled through the pipeline and provides highly detailed information about the interior and exterior of the pipeline. There are three types of anomalies looked for:

  • Metal loss (or corrosion)
  • Cracks
  • Changes to the shape of the pipe

Based on the test results each anomaly must be assessed to determine if it could cause damage. The company would then address significant issues and make required repairs to the pipeline. Many types of defects can be assessed using the correct inline inspection tools.

Q8. When would a company carry out an integrity dig?

Companies will do integrity digs in order to manage the safe operation of their pipelines. Analysis of inline inspection data will drive integrity dig work.  It is common for companies to undertake integrity digs while the pipelines are operating.

When carrying out integrity digs, companies are required to follow CSA Z662 (the Canadian Standards Association, Oil and gas pipeline systems standard), which includes requirements for operations and maintenance activities undertaken on pipelines.

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