Enbridge Oil Spill Risk High

A new report by Simon Fraser University researchers concludes the probability of a marine tanker oil spill for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is between 95.3% and 99.9% over the operating life of the project.

These tanker spill probabilities based on the US Oil Spill Risk Analysis model are much higher than the 18% probability estimated by Enbridge.

The report also forecasts an average of 15 pipeline spills per year on the Northern Gateway based on Enbridge’s actual pipeline spill record from 2002 to 2010.

The findings are contained in a report completed by Dr. Thomas Gunton, Director of the Resource and Environmental Planning Program at Simon Fraser University and Sean Broadbent.

The study finds that Enbridge’s oil spill risk assessment contains 28 major deficiencies and therefore does not provide an accurate assessment of oil spill risk associated with the Northern Gateway Project.

“One of the major deficiencies in the Enbridge analysis,” stated Gunton “is the reliance on data that underreport tanker incidents by between 38 and 96%. Enbridge makes no attempt to adjust for this underreporting and consequently underestimates the probability of tanker spills.” said Gunton.

Other major deficiencies in Enbridge’s risk assessment is the failure to provide documentation justifying the impact of planned mitigation measures on spill risk and the failure to use the US Oil Spill Risk Analysis model, which is the standard model used by the US government for oil spill risk assessment.

The study finds that the rate of tanker spills has been declining with improvements in safety. However, even with these improvements there is still a significant risk. The study found no evidence of a reduction in the rate of pipeline spills.

The study cautions that forecasting oil spill risk is challenging due to uncertainty over future trends. However, risk studies need to convey this uncertainty and the range of risk involved.

“The problem with the Enbridge risk assessment,” said Gunton, “is that it does not accurately or clearly report the degree of risk involved with the Northern Gateway project.”

A major criterion for making a decision on the Northern Gateway Project under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects. The study concludes that the lack of an accurate scientific assessment of oil spill risk for the Northern Gateway compromises the ability of government to make an informed decision on the project.

For more information contact: Dr. Thomas Gunton (250-477 7601 or gunton@sfu.ca)

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