Breaking out boats and boom in the Alberta Badlands

Equipment drill introduces Enbridge’s emergency preparedness, response systems to new stakeholders

They’re known as the Badlands for a reason.

If you’re out on foot in the region surrounding Medicine Hat, Alberta in summer, you may encounter bullsnakes, prairie rattlers, pincushion cacti and sinkholes, in addition to extreme heat.

Earlier this week, as part of Enbridge’s program of vigilance and preparation, we held an emergency response drill in the Badlands north of Medicine Hat, out on the South Saskatchewan River.

“We want to be prepared for anything—that’s why we hold these drills regularly—and the particular setting and conditions are all part of the package,” notes Scott Ritzer, a Sherwood Park, Alberta-based Emergency Response Co-ordinator with Enbridge.

“As part of any exercise, we do an advance site visit and analysis,” adds Ritzer, “and this was really good for our people to carry out in an area they were unfamiliar with, since the Express pipeline is a new asset following the Spectra merger.”

About 50 Enbridge employees and contractors, including teams from across Alberta and Saskatchewan, took part in Wednesday’s drill, which measured our response to a simulated third-party strike on our Express Canada pipeline.

Enbridge crews used response boats to deploy containment boom, deflector boom and skimmer systems—strengthening our spill control capabilities.

Representatives of regional first response agencies, City of Medicine Hat Water Supply, the National Energy Board and the Metis Nation of Alberta, as well as local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Robert Wanner, watched Enbridge’s water response activities, quizzed Enbridge response specialists, toured work locations, and were invited to board a response boat for a closer look.

“We had a lot of really good questions, and most of them were directed toward working with those response agencies in the future,” says Ritzer, “as well as preparing together to respond in the event of a pipeline incident.”

While Enbridge focuses heavily on prevention activities like inspection, monitoring and maintenance to keep our pipelines fit for service, we also have robust emergency preparedness and response systems—which we constantly test, review and improve—in the unlikely event of a pipeline incident.

In 2017, we staged more than 365 drills, exercises and equipment deployment events to sharpen our emergency preparedness.

“This was a good opportunity to showcase our program for these stakeholders who are new to us along the Express line,” says Ritzer. “There seems to be a lot of interest in planning and executing these drills together—which is a huge win for safety.”