“It could have been a catastrophe.”
With these words, landowner James Wood sums up the June 2015 incident on his property near Paradise, TX, where a contractor struck and punctured a gas gathering pipeline while clearing brush.
The escaping natural gas sprayed debris and blew out the window of the bulldozer, but fortunately did not ignite—and the contractor was able to get safely away and call Enbridge to shut down the line and respond.
Four months later and nearly 1,200 miles to the north, a similar incident occurred on Enbridge’s crude oil pipeline system when John and Rick Proulx were clearing brush from land on their farm near St. Hilaire, MN.
They knew they were working near the Enbridge mainline—as many as seven parallel underground pipelines that carry different types of crude oil and petroleum products—but hadn’t called for the lines to be located and marked.
“It felt like I hit a rock,” recalls John, who thought he knew the location of the pipeline. “It didn’t sound quite right, so that’s when I got off the backhoe and went down into the hole and found out it was the pipe.”
Fortunately, while the Line 2 pipeline was damaged in three places, it was still intact. The father and son called Enbridge’s emergency line, and the control center operators immediately shut down and isolated all the pipelines in the area, dispatching local crews who arrived on site within the hour.
These two incidents, in two different parts of our business, highlight one of the most persistent and widespread hazards we must manage to protect the health of our pipelines, gathering and distribution systems: unsafe digging and ground disturbance.
In both cases, we responded immediately and decisively, with the lines quickly shut down to minimize the risk and teams on site right away to begin repairs. In Texas, we replaced the line where it crossed a creek bed, using horizontal directional drilling to situate the new pipe 18 feet below ground, and in Minnesota pipeline crews repaired and reinforced the line with sleeves.
But Kesley Tweed, Enbridge’s Houston-based manager of strategic partnerships and public awareness, notes that was just the beginning of Enbridge’s response.
Today, in a pair of powerful public service videos, Wood and the Proulx family candidly discuss the incidents on their properties—and how they could have been avoided by calling 811 or visiting clickbeforeyoudig.com.
“They wanted to share their stories so it wouldn’t happen to someone else,” says Tweed, whose job involves programs and outreach to landowners, farmers and excavators to build awareness around our energy infrastructure.
“The foundation of our business is safety,” she says. “It’s our job. You’re not bothering us when you call. Even if you’ve been digging in the area before, even if your family has owned the land for 60 years, put safety first and make the call.”