July 23, 2014 at 1:00 am


In Marshall, lessons from an oil spill

Four years after its oil spill on the Kalamazoo River, Enbridge is announcing safeguards to prevent the next spill. (Dale G. Young / The Detroit News)

July 26, 2010, is a day that no one at Enbridge will ever forget.

On that day, nearly four years ago, our pipeline failed near Marshall, Michigan — with crude oil released into the Kalamazoo River, and numerous lives disrupted throughout the area.

It was one of the bleakest and most humbling chapters in our company’s 65-year history. The safety and operational reliability of our pipelines have always represented the very core of our business, and protecting people who live and work near our pipelines, as well as the environment, is our top priority.

We vowed at the time that we would make it right.

Four years later, with the support and co-operation of so many in the community, we are pleased to have returned the Kalamazoo River to health.

The river reopened for recreational use in the summer of 2012.

Last month, the Michigan Department of Community Health gave the river a clean bill of health for recreational activities.

Five river access sites have been either developed or enhanced — and will be maintained in perpetuity for the benefit of the community.

The Marshall incident also improved how Enbridge operates.

As a result of the Marshall incident, we’ve since put in place a wide range of measures to enhance the safety and reliability of our entire North American pipeline system, including:

■ Intensifying what was already an aggressive, proactive approach to pipeline integrity management; in the past three years, we have conducted more than 500 in-line inspections and nearly 7,250 verification digs across our system;

■ Substantially increasing our pipeline integrity management spending, with $4.2-billion invested on Liquids Pipelines integrity maintenance in the past three years;

■ Establishing a Pipeline Control Systems and Leak Detection department, doubling the number of employees and contractors dedicated to leak detection and pipeline control;

■ Adding staff at our Control Center Operations (CCO), while also revising and enhancing all CCO procedures pertaining to decision making, pipeline startup and shutdown, leak detection system alarms, and communication protocols;

■ Investing $50-million in new response equipment across our enterprise since 2012;

■ Bolstering our emergency response and preparedness efforts, with 381 company-wide exercises, drills, and equipment deployment events in 2012, and 478 more in 2013;

■ Launching a state-of-the-art, online interactive training program to help emergency responders and 911 call center personnel quickly and effectively respond to a pipeline emergency.

We will not forget the Marshall incident.

In fact, within our company, we have memorialized it — to guide our decisions, and strengthen our resolve to make certain that such an event never happens again.

Brad Shamla is vice president of U.S. Operations, Liquids Pipelines for Enbridge Energy Partners L.P.