No timeline to re-open pipelineSlope stability concerns cause precautionary shutdown of oil delivery
Northern News Services
Monday, December 5, 2016
Just a few months after Liidlii Kue First Nation warned Enbridge representatives of erosion along the riverbank near the Norman Wells pipeline, the company has shut its pipeline down due to slope stability concerns 10 kilometres east of Fort Simpson.
A timeline for potentially re-opening the pipeline was not available at press time.
Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Jerry Antoine said the band had received reports from its membership and a councillor throughout the summer of eroding riverbanks and ground slumping upstream from the pipeline.
"After so many years, you can tell it's gradually moving downriver from where it was happening. And it was approaching the pipeline area," said Antoine.
Although Enbridge has erosion control measures in place along the pipeline, details on specifics to the area in question were not available.
Enbridge spokesperson Suzanne Wilton stated in an e-mail the company manages such issues through monitoring, assessment and remediation.
Since the shutdown was announced, the company has increased its monitoring and is doing daily visual inspections of the impacted slope.
"The Norman Wells pipeline was specially engineered for the terrain and geographical location," she stated, adding the company's preventative maintenance and monitoring program had worked properly, alerting Enbridge of changing stability conditions.
Following the announcement of the shutdown, Wilton said the pipeline would be restarted only long enough so all the oil currently inside it could reach its destination. After that, the shutdown would progress.
The temporary re-activation, she stated, would also allow Imperial Oil to safely reduce its production in Norman Wells.
Although the pipeline belongs to Enbridge, the oil flowing through it belongs to Imperial Oil, whose operation in Norman Wells generates power for the town through the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.
Power corp spokesperson Pam Coulter stated in an e-mail the corporation is currently working with Imperial Oil, which is still generating power for Norman Wells.
"Should that change, NTPC is always prepared to respond to power outages with its back-up plant, with three generators, to provide adequate power for its customers in the community," Coulter stated.
'Reduce our production'
Imperial Oil spokesperson Lisa Schmidt said the company is working with Enbridge to understand the potential impacts of the shutdown.
"As a precaution, Imperial Oil has started to reduce our production at Norman Wells to minimal operations status," she said.
"We have a multi-discipline team in place to evaluate our options and to develop contingency plans that will help determine our actions moving forward."
An employee memo obtained by News/North tries to quell fears the shutdown will negatively impact employees at Imperial Oil's Norman Wells facility.
According to that memo, the company is working to consider alternative work arrangements for employees should that be required.
'Upriver from community'
"Water is our priority. The pipeline is upriver from our community and the municipality here also has an intake pipe that takes water from the river," Antoine said.
"Right away, what comes to mind is the safety of the water – that's our (main) concern."
The band's business arm, Nogha Enterprises, is pursuing necessary safety certification in order to be able to contract its services to Enbridge.
That's tied to the effort the band is making to prepare itself in order to be able to respond effectively to future emergencies
"That way, we can protect the land and also the safety of the people," Antoine said.
"This is our land, and we have to be involved."
The Norman Wells pipeline, also known as Line 21, is 869 kilometres long and runs from Norman Wells to Zama, Alta. It has a capacity of 50,000 barrels of oil per day.
– with files from Kassina Ryder