Line 21 pipeline reopens

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Enbridge Inc.’s Line 21 pipeline from Norman Wells to Zama, Alta. was put back into operation on Sept. 25 after being out of commission since 2016.

Imperial Oil spokesperson Lisa Schmidt said the company intends to gradually resume operations in Norman Wells, but said she couldn’t supply a specific timeline.

“What I can tell you right now is we have over 100 employees and contractors working at the facility currently,” said Schmidt, “which is a return to normal for our day-to-day operations.”

Imperial Oil put its Norman Wells facility into care and maintenance in early 2017, after Enbridge shut down Line 21 in 2016 when the riverbank around a section of the pipeline near Fort Simpson became unstable.

Schmidt says the company has gradually been increasing its staffing levels since the shutdown in anticipation of the pipeline’s repair.

As to the details of resuming operations, Schmidt says it is a complicated process and it’s hard to predict exact dates.

“It’s a process of restarting different facilities throughout the operation. So, in terms of timing, I can’t be more specific right now, but the process is beginning.”

The Line 21 pipeline, running from Norman Wells to Zama, Alta., is back in operation. Photo courtesy of Enbridge Inc.
The Line 21 pipeline, running from Norman Wells to Zama, Alta., is back in operation. Photo courtesy of Enbridge Inc.

She says now that the pipeline is in place, “production will be expected to ramp up.”

Enbridge spokesperson Jesse Semko says the 2.5-kilometre replacement segment of pipeline, underneath the Mackenzie River, was successfully installed and passed several safety tests, including filling it with water at a pressure “higher than it normally operates” to test the line’s integrity.

An engineering assessment was also conducted on the entirety of Line 21 to ensure it could be operated safely.

Schmidt says the replacement project involved a temporary workforce of close to 120 people and that Enbridge prioritized hiring locals and using local services throughout the project, including procuring gravel, truck rentals, camp services, tree clearing, wildlife monitoring and helicopter services.

Schmidt says the shutdown and replacement project was a preventative measure and that it was conducted in consultation with the local communities and Indigenous groups.

After initially being dissatisfied with the correspondence it had received from Enbridge, Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Gerald Antoine announced in January that the project had full support from the band after inking a Participation Agreement and an Environmental Management Agreement with the company, guaranteeing benefits from and input in, the project.

Premier Bob McLeod applauded the reopening of the pipeline in a statement last week, reiterating that resource development “has and will continue to be, the backbone of our economy.”

“I know the efforts and economic impacts of the pipeline have already begun to take shape in (Norman Wells) and will be felt for years to come,” he stated.

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