Despite Spills, Enbridge Pushes For More Oil Sands Pipelines


Athabasca_Oil_Sands_map— Last week Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge suffered a leak on its Athabasca pipeline that carries 350,000 barrels of crude from the Alberta oil sands region over the border into the United States. Roughly 1,400 barrels of oil escaped the line in a rural area. The oil is being cleaned up. Harder to clean up: the reputational damage to a company that tries to depict pipelines as a safe and effective way to get Canada’s oil sands crude to market. Enbridge is not the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. That project belongs to TransCanada. Four years ago Enbridge had its own oil sands lines into the United States approved without any such hoopla. “It was a non-issue,” says Leon Zupan, president of Enbridge’s gas pipeline business and former senior v.p. of its oil pipelines.

Enbridge, among its $34 billion in assets, owns the Athabasca and Wapasu lines, which together import 700,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude into the U.S. “We are the largest developer and operator of pipelines out of the oil sands,” Zupan told me in an interview a few days before the recent leak.

What’s more, Enbridge moves a total of 1.2 million bpd to the U.S. from Canada. “If Enbridge was a country we would be the largest importer to the U.S.,” says Zupan. “13% of total U.S. imports come through the Enbridge system, more than from Saudi Arabia.”

Adding in conventional Canadian crude and oil from the Bakken formation of North Dakota and Montana and Enbridge’s U.S. pipeline system handles more than 2 million bpd and covers thousands of miles.