Enbridge Inc. is pledging to add up to $500 million in extra safety improvements to its embattled Northern Gateway pipeline project in a bid to calm fears of a possible oil spill along the proposed route across northern B.C.
The Calgary-based firm announced Friday it would thicken the pipeline wall, make the pipe even thicker near major river crossings like the Fraser and Skeena and install dual leak detection systems.
It also pledged:
- 50 per cent more remotely operated shutoff valves.
- More frequent in-line inspection surveys.
- Round-the-clock staffing of pump stations in remote areas to ensure on-site monitoring, heightened security and rapid response to problems.
"We recognize that there are concerns among aboriginal groups and the public around pipeline safety and integrity," executive vice-president Janet Holder said, adding the project was already going to be state-of-the-art.
"With these enhanced measures, we will make what is already a very safe project even safer in order to provide further comfort to people who are concerned about the safety of sensitive habitats in remote areas."
Enbridge estimated the extra spending at $400 to $500 million, adding to the cost of the $5.5-billion original price tag.
"We have to do everything we can to ensure confidence in the project," Holder said.
The announcement came on the heels of scathing findings by U.S. regulators this month on Enbridge's inept response to a 2010 rupture of an oil pipeline in Michigan.
The provincial government has yet to take a clear position on the project, although the premier has increasingly warned it comes with high risks and little reward for B.C.
Northern Gateway would carry oil sands crude from northern Alberta 1,170 kilometres west to Kitimat, where it would be loaded onto tankers for export to Asia and elsewhere. A second pipeline would bring imported condensate back to Alberta.