Montreal Wants to Examine Safety of Line 9 With Hydrostatic Test

A Quebec citizen group is applauding a resolution by the Greater Montreal Area’s governing body asking the National Energy Board for a hydrostatic safety test of the Line 9 oil pipeline before it goes back into operation this summer.

We would like to thank the CMM (Greater Montreal Area) and its president, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, as well as the numerous other elected bodies that have listened to the concerns of the public, and acted swiftly on this safety issue by adopting similar resolutions and forwarding them to the NEB,” Lorraine Caron, a spokesperson for the citizen group Les Citoyens au Courant, said.

The governing body, better known as the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal or Montreal Metropolitan Community, passed the resolution in a meeting on April 30. Line 9, a 39-year old Enbridge pipeline, runs through a densely populated corridor from Montreal, through Toronto and on to Sarnia in southwestern Ontario.

Citizen groups, and environmental organizations in Ontario and Quebec have been voicing concerns for over two years on whether Line 9 — the twin in age and design of the Enbridge pipeline that ruptured in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010 — can operate safely at an increased capacity and while transporting oilsands (also called tar sands) bitumen.

We have been convinced by industry experts, including Richard Kuprewicz, U.S. expert on pipeline safety, that hydrostatic testing is the only way to guarantee the 639-kilometre pipeline can withstand the pressure it will be subjected to and the only way to find pinhole leaks and some types of stress corrosion cracking that could lead to rupture,” Katherine Massam of Les Citoyens au Courant stated in a press release.

Kuprewicz, who discussed Line 9 with DeSmog Canada on several occasions, believes without a hydrotest there is a 90 per cent probability the pipeline will rupture. The U.S.-based pipeline safety expert with over thirty years of experience found evidence of extensive stress corrosion cracking on the pipeline when examining Enbridge’s own documents on Line 9's condition.  

Enbridge needs to conduct a hydrostatic test on Line 9. It is the gold standard for pipeline integrity and safety. Canada has a well-established history of hydrotesting its pipelines,” Kuprewicz told DeSmog Canada in a 2013 interview.

A hydrostatic test or hydrotest would pump water through Line 9 at similar pressures to those the pipeline is expected to operate at. The test could provide valuable information on whether Line 9 can operate safely at its proposed maximum pressure.

The NEB Can Order A Hydrotest of Line 9

When the National Energy Board (NEB), Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, approved Enbridge’s proposed changes to Line 9 — a 20 per cent increase in capacity, flow reversal, and the shipping of heavy crudes like bitumen — in March 2014, the board reserved the right to order a hydrotest if Enbridge’s updated Line 9 engineering assessment was deemed unsatisfactory.

So far, the NEB has chosen not to exercise this right.

Our municipal officials have done their job by asking for these tests. Now we are expecting the Quebec government to do the same by following recommendations that CAPERN made in 2013, especially the one that pertains to carrying out hydrostatic tests to verify the pipeline,” Caron said. 

A committee commissioned by the Quebec government to investigate the Line 9 project in 2013 recommended Quebec request a hydrotest to ensure the pipeline would not fail.

During the Line 9 regulatory hearings in 2013, the province of Ontario also asked the NEB to conduct a hydrostatic test of the pipeline.   

Line 9 Approved, But Still Contested

Line 9 may have regulatory approval, but the project’s opponents in Ontario and Quebec certainly have not given up yet.

In a 29 – 2 decision, Toronto City Council passed a motion last April requesting the NEB not allow Enbridge to re-start Line 9 until the company installs automatic shut off valves on the pipeline at all major water crossings, the source of the city’s drinking water. Council deemed the valves necessary to halt the flow of oil through the pipeline in the event of a spill.

This motion reflects increased resident pressure on the city to defend us all against environmental hazards,” Jessica Lyons, a member of the Toronto No Line 9 Network, said in a Toronto Media Co-op article.  

The Chippewas of the Thames, an Anishinaabe First Nation in southwestern Ontario, will appear in federal court this June to challenge Line 9 on the grounds the project violates their constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights.  

All eyes are on Energy East, but we are in the 9th inning with Line 9 right now,” Caron told DeSmog Canada.

If Line 9 is allowed to transport tar sands oil it will set a bad precedent for all the other pipeline projects.”

Line 9 is expected to begin operating again at the end of June.

Image Credit: Oil Change International