From dissemination.noblogs.org. The project is for opposing the Enbridge Line 9, but many of the concepts are transferable to other pipeline projects.
understanding infrastructure basics can help us pinpoint an appropriate point of resistance – so here are some basics.
oil is extracted from the tarsands, and upgraded for transportation through pipelines, or refined for their final destination. pumping stations keep the product flowing through pipelines. densitometer stations send back flow rates and viscosity. bulk oil can be stored in tank farms, until it is refined further, or shipped by rail or truck. valve stations contain valves that open or close the pipeline to isolate sections/stop flow. junctions are facilities where other valves can be turned on or off to direct flow into certain facilities.
facilities, pump stations, terminals, valves, and densitometer stations are all accessible via maintained roads.
terminals & storage facilities are often secured 24 hours with lighting and staff on site. there is lots of aboveground structure including above ground pipelines, valves, electrical systems, flow measurement systems and large cylindrical storage tanks. there are 3 along line 9 – in sarnia, westover and montreal – but smaller delivery lines also feed offset facilities on the way, such as the petro-canada tanks in so-called missisauga.
pumping stations may or may not be staffed by security at night, and are usually fenced with 6-8 foot fencing topped with barbed wire. infrastructure also exists here, including above ground pipelines, valves, PIG traps, flow measurement and emergency shutoff buttons.
valves & densitometer stations are usually small & isolated, also with 6-8 foot chain link fencing & barbed wire. their enclosures have a gate entry, often secured with a standard key lock that can be cut with larger-sized bolt cutters and contain a small shack housing electrical sources and measurement equipment. valves have an additional link-chain wrapped around the hand wheel and stem, meant to prevent rotation.
integrity dig sites will be accessible via private property/stakeholder driveways or the right of way. they are sometimes marked with construction truck signs and flagging. notices for future digs are posted in the maintenance filings on the neb site.
right of ways are marked at road crossings by a small sign at the side of the road. It’s easy to find the closest crossing to navigate your way in to the site. Though identifiable in natural areas, ROW’s aren’t always easy to access and traverse swamps, river crossings, property lines etc. if you decide to go for a walk in these manmade mosquito breeding corridors you may have to jump some property fences to continue along your journey.
enbridge has a number of valves on all of their pipelines. these valves are often located in more isolated/rural areas, accessible right off a maintained roadway, and surrounded by chain link with razor wire. locks can be cut by larger sets of bolt cutters [or chain link cut with smaller pairs].
*update: since a number of successful valve site occupations and nighttime sabotage actions, enbridge has added heavier reinforced chain link and lock boxes to their valve facility enclosures. while you can’t cut the chain anymore, or access the locks, you can cut through the chain link fence! also: scout appropriately beforehand. enbridge has acknowledge changes in security, which could mean anything from new chains to security patrols to cameras/motion cameras. BE SAFE!
in their line 9 filings, enbridge claims to be intending to use a double flanged electronically actuated valve manufactured by zwick. their schematics can be found here.
while it appears the majority of older manual valves have been converted to electronically actuated valves, operational/functional manual valves do still exist on the line. enbridge claims only 3 are still existing – all near or in quebec [KP 3458.31, KP 3483.12 & KP 3500], however this is not true. there is at least one other near so-called sarnia [KP 2816.37] off mandaumin road and may be more.
*update: enbridge will be converting the mandaumin road valve, but have no fear – that means they will need to shut off line 9 at one point, and electronic valve have been successfully operated. see here and this handy drawing that was submitted to the site through an anonymous email [i.e. we can’t confirm it’s accuracy]. in that email, it was also noted that different valves may have slightly different electronic interfaces.
there are 3 sources for valve listings, none of them appearing complete or wholly accurate:
- land surveys/pipeline maps can be manually checked for existing valve locations marked with a yellow dot.
- this list of “new” or converted valves [page 26]
- this filing, showing valve locations related to water crossings.
manual vs. electronic actuation
a manual valve is only operated by a manual hand wheel, while electronically actuated valves are operated by electricity – either from remotely, or on site if switched to manual operation. the manual hand wheel will not operate the valve unless the power is off or the valve is on manual/on-site operation.
they’re fairly easy to tell apart – manual valves just have an encasement and hand wheel, while electric valves will have a hand wheel, encasement, electric cords attaching to the bottom with hex-bolts, and sometimes other measuring equipment.
what is known is that electronic-actuated valves rely on a power source, and in so-called canada are mandated to have a backup power source to move the valve into a “closed” position during a power failure [called “fail-to-safe”].
additionally, enbridge has previously submitted that using a manual valve to turn off a pipeline can take between 10-15 minutes of rotation, so go prepared for a workout.
*update: enbridge has removed the handwheels on the manual valves of line 9. you can cast the bolt size and create your own wheel, however – or find an appropriately sized tool [the bolt is bigger than you think. cast it with a pie pan and clay or something similar!].
so how safe is it to just turn off a valve?
well, first, let’s be real. it’s enbridge that puts us at risk, every single day. it’s the tarsands that put us at risk; every single day.
the tarsands are actively shortening and ending lives.
every. single. day.
so let’s talk about the safety of actions against pipelines in the context of those facts. let’s re-frame the discussions we’re having, and talk about how turning off the pipeline is actually the safest course of action. how an inactive pipelines is safer than letting one run unimpeded.
but if that’s not enough for you, here are a few other things that make you feel better about the actions of a brave few.
- physical build: pipelines are built with valves. valves turn off or later flow. thus, common sense says the structure and condition of the pipeline should be enough to contain its contents under those conditions. shutting off valves is not an uncommon practice in the industry.
- surge mitigation & safety features: shutting off a valve suddenly does create a pressure surge. this surge, however, is mitigated and safely handled through basic pipeline structure as well as safety features of pipelines including surge relief valves and automatic shutoffs which are mandated by pipeline legislation. years ago government engineers decided that surges from sudden valve closures did not create enough of a threat to allow companies to exclude valves in their system designs.
- precedence. ‘nuff said.
- phonecalls. in the case of daytime actions taken so far, those involved gave enbridge a heads-up about what was about to happen. in this context especially, it’s easy to see there was never really any threat – to the environment, or to life.
it’s SO important to note that we don’t provide these arguments in the context of action taken against pipelines as being unsafe. we refuse to buy in to that rhetoric and narrative. once again – it is the extraction, refining and transportation of crude that is unsafe and threatens lives. any action taken against those is action based in self-defense – and defense of the land and water.
[NOTE: Enbridge recently saw fit to cancel over a hundred integrity digs, citing that they were no longer necessary. for the complete list of cancelled digs, see this document.]
An integrity dig is a visual inspection of a defect detected by an inline/computer and deemed important enough to inspect in person. The area will be marked out & excavated with earth movers and then by hydro vac. The anti-corrosion coating will be sanded off and the defect located & repaired. The pipe will then be re-coated, re-buried and the area re-seeded if necessary. If the anti-corrosion coating is compromised before re-burying, it will have to be re-coated. the process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks and work is not usually done during overnight hours.
Individual points of resistant within a dig vary from pulling pegs to monkeywrenching to work disruptions.
It’s not always necessary to stop pumping oil through the line for these types of repairs.
Enbridge has since filed 322 notices to repair cracks in line 9, just between july and december 2013, all of which – at last check, were scheduled for repair between January 2014 and July 2014.
You can find more info in each individual filing, including the kilometre post [KP] and mile post [MP] of where each dig/repair will take place. If you’re curious about how close these repairs are to you, you can check each KP/MP filing against the detailed Enbridge Line 9 project maps.
terminals, stations & other infrastructure
pipeline networks are vast and hard to secure, making oil & gas company’s weakness our potential strength. the pipeline infratructure itself is above ground at three points: during layout/construction of a new pipeline/segment, during maintenance when it’s uncovered, and where it comes above ground to pumping stations and terminals. physical pipelines themselves can have varying maintenance requirements. while anomalies on pipeline surfaces are often ignored, there are rigid replacement requirements around at least two specific damages that can delay operation.
i. scratches/dents/interference with pipeline flanges – especially open the open face of a flange, or;
ii. scratches on pipe threads of newly laid out/uninstalled pipe.
clearly it’s in our best interest to let everyone know when these things may have been tampered with or damaged.
some pipeline facilities including densitometre stations and valve stations have telecommunications systems to relay information on pumping pressures and pipeline content and allow remote access/control to these systems. it’s not unimaginable that any kind of interference with their telecommunications equipment might lead to a forced shutdown of the pipeline.
terminals & pumping stations
as work for the expansion of line 9b begins [because we all know it will be] work will begin or continue at pumping stations and terminals along line 9b, from Hamilton to Montreal. this work often includes pipeline shut downs and applications will be made to the NEB beforehand.
enbridge will be doing work at Sarnia Terminal, North Westover, Hilton, Cardinal, Terrebonne and Montreal terminal.
remember: each day the line is shut down costs the corporate bloodsuckers plenty of money – in wages, equipment rentals, insurance and – if you hit it at the right time – oil flow stoppage.
enbridge has determined that a new densitometer will be installed at KP 2989 (MP 1857), rather than relocating the existing densitometer from KP 2993 (MP1860) as originally filed for.
enbridge will also be installing 17 new shut off valves along line 9. you can find the kilometre post markings for those valves in this doc, on page 26. compare them to the line 9 maps for exact locations.