We’ve heard many questions in the open houses the Energy East Pipeline team has held across Manitoba. For those who did not attend them, here are some FACTS to address common misperceptions about the risk of a spill from Energy East and its impact on Winnipeg’s drinking water. (Read our analysis published by Winnipeg Free Press)
Is Shoal Lake on the Energy East Pipeline route? No.
The water intake at Shoal Lake – the source of the City of Winnipeg’s drinking water – is on average more than 12 kilometres directly south of the pipeline route.
When evaluating all possible pathways between the pipeline route and the Shoal Lake intake, environmental experts have confirmed that crude oil would have to travel between 25.6 and 44.6 kilometres – through still lakes and slow moving rivers that act as natural barriers to contain an unlikely release – before it could reach anywhere near Shoal Lake.
In the extremely unlikely event of a leak, our emergency response teams would be deployed to contain and capture any oil released long before it could get near the water intake, which supplies the city of Winnipeg via the 150-kilometre Greater Winnipeg Water District aqueduct.
Is it true that you can’t detect leaks under 1.5 percent of the pipeline’s capacity? Wrong.
It is a common misconception that small leaks would go undetected. That is not the case.
Why? Because we have many overlapping alarms and monitoring tools to identify leaks – even the small ones – and respond to them within minutes:
- Electronic sensors along the pipeline that transmit data every five seconds
- 24/7 Control Centre that can shut down the pipeline within minutes
- Shut-off valves that can be closed remotely to isolate a section where a leak may be happening
- Aerial and ground patrols as well as regular inspections inside the pipeline
- Trained emergency responders on call 24/7 along the pipeline to contain the leak and clean up
On the Keystone Pipeline system for example, our Control Centre identified a leak equivalent to 8.5 barrels of oil at a pump station, a TransCanada facility designed to contain oil. The pipeline was shut down within minutes. Keystone has safely transported over 1.2 billion barrels of oil – the equivalent of 2 million rail cars – since coming into service in July 2010.
Watch this video: Committed to safety
Is it dangerous to have an oil pipeline travelling close to a natural gas pipeline? No.
In Manitoba, Energy East will include the conversion of one of the natural gas pipelines that make the Canadian Mainline gas system so that it can transport oil. We’ve done this before.
For Keystone, we converted another line from the Mainline gas system – from Alberta to Harbour Landing in Regina – and have safely transported 1.2 billion barrels of oil through this pipeline since it started operating nearly six years ago.
There are a number of safety steps we take that meet – and often exceed – requirements from regulatory bodies – from the spacing between the pipes to thicker walls and the ability of our Control Centre specialists to shut off all lines within minutes.
For example, in the single location where Energy East will cross – almost seven feet underneath – the Winnipeg aqueduct, spacing between the pipelines is more than double the distance required by regulators for safe operations. And a rupture would not result in an “explosion” because the liquid inside is non-compressible.