Enbridge Significantly Understates the Risk of Spills, Says Study

Trent Ernst, Editor

A new report, authored by Dr. Tom Gunton, director of Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management and former Deputy Minister of Environment, says that Enbridge “significantly understates the risk of spills” along the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project (ENGP).

The report, released in late April, claims that “there are 28 major deficiencies in the Enbridge risk analysis for ENGP tanker, terminal and pipeline spills,” and that Enbridge’s analysis meets none of the best practices for spill analysis.

While much of the opposition to the ENGP has come from people along the west coast, the pipeline would cross the Murray River just below Kinuseo Falls, then head up Imperial Creek, above Tumbler Ridge’s most popular tourism destination. A spill in this area would see the possibility of diluted bitumen (dilbit) entering the river above the falls.

Enbridge says that risk of a spill is about 18 percent, and has reported this number to the Canadian Government, which relies on the company to provide its own risk assessment.

However, using Enbridge’s data, Dr Gunton argues that the chance of a spill is as high as 99 percent over the life of the project.

The study uses an internationally accepted model known as the United States Oil Spill Risk Analysis (OSRA), predicts tanker spills on the B.C. coast every 10 years – as opposed to Enbridge’s estimate of 250 years.

Even according to Enbridge’s own study, there is expected to be an oil spill every couple of years along the pipeline.

Dr. Gunton argues that there would be multiple spills each year.

His study predicts 776 oil and condensate pipeline spills over 50 years, which is 31 times more frequent than Enbridge’s estimate of 25 spills.

The study comes too late to be entered as evidence before the joint review panel, which is gearing up to hear final written arguments.

For their part, Enbridge says the numbers are inflated and do not reflect the new technology proposed for the pipeline, nor does it reflect real world spill numbers.

If Gunton’s numbers are right, says Enbridge, there should be up to 77 large tanker spills every year. However, there are less than three spills a year, and there were no major tanker spills last year.

As for Pipeline spills, BC has the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. It was built in 1957, and has suffered only one major spill, when an excavator working nearby damaged it in July 2007.

More than 250,000 litres of crude oil were spilled, and about 70,000 litres of that flowed into the Burrard Inlet. It cost $15 million to clean up.

The joint review panel will begin hearing final arguments in June.