Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Grain and oil rail cars pass by a grain elevator in Rosser, Mb., which is just outside Winnipeg, in March, 2014.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

Imperial Oil Ltd. has shut down a key pipeline that supplies the Winnipeg area with gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, as the Calgary-based company scrambles to make repairs and find ways to continue transporting fuel to the city by truck and train.

Routine inspections by Imperial IMO-T earlier this year found what the provincial government calls “integrity concerns” in a section of the Winnipeg Products Pipeline under the Red River near St. Adolphe, a community about 30 kilometres south of Manitoba’s capital. The line was shut down on Sunday as a result – an unplanned move that the company says is “preventative maintenance to ensure the integrity of the line.”

Imperial would not provide details about what the inspections uncovered that required the repairs.

The City of Winnipeg’s chief administrative officer, Michael Jack, initially contended that the problem is far worse than Imperial has said but changed his opinion on Monday.

“Candidly, I don’t believe this PR statement accurately conveys the gravity of the situation; we have reason to believe the supply of gasoline products to the entire city (and beyond) may be compromised for a period of time,” he wrote to city councillors on Sunday, in an e-mail obtained by The Globe and Mail.

At a press conference on Monday, Mr. Jack told reporters he is “feeling good” after conversations with Imperial. “We are paid to worry about these things. We don’t send a lot of e-mails saying everything is fine,” he said.

“A discussion around gas can cause people to get anxious, and we just simply don’t have any reasons to think anybody should.”

Later on Monday, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said while there is no reason for the public to panic or for people to stock up on fuel, the government is looking at obtaining backup supplies in case Imperial falls short.

Mr. Kinew said he has also been in contact with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum to enquire about equipment, logistical expertise and any fuel supplies that the province can turn to the state to help with. More than 50,000 train cars carrying fuel as well as fuel trucks are on their way to Winnipeg as of this week, he said.

“We have a week or two worth of fuel supply in the city right now. Our hope is that that backup supply will be in place ahead of that two-week period,” the Premier said.

The pipeline carries refined petroleum products to Winnipeg from the Enbridge Mainline pipeline at Gretna, Man., on the Canada-U.S. border.

Imperial said in a statement Sunday night that it is arranging alternate forms of transport to keep fuel moving into Winnipeg and surrounding communities. The company is also identifying other terminal locations where customers can pick up products, including at Enbridge’s Gretna crude oil tank terminal, which remains connected to pipeline supply from Western Canada. The terminal has a capacity of about 335,000 barrels.

Gasoline supply will be managed with additional storage and loading capacity at the Gretna terminal, using rail and trucks to transport the fuel to Imperial’s Winnipeg terminal, and arranging for customers to use other supply points outside of the region where possible.

Diesel supply will be managed by rail, and jet fuel by truck.

Imperial said in an e-mail Monday that it expects the line will be out of service for three months, but the company is working to expedite work where possible.

The provincial government and Imperial say nothing has been spilled into the environment from the pipeline.

However, the pipeline shutdown comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Imperial. It came under fire early last year for failing to tell local Indigenous communities about months of leaking from tailings at its Kearl oil sands facility in Northern Alberta into the environment. There have also been two spills at the site in the past year.

The oil pipeline shutdown also comes just weeks after two City of Winnipeg sewage pipelines burst under the Red River. Hundreds of millions of litres of raw sewage had spilled into the river for days, a situation the city attributed to aging infrastructure.

Mr. Kinew said the province is not yet sure whether the Imperial shutdown relates to Winnipeg’s old infrastructure. He is leaning on the company to do the right thing, but “with a healthy dose of skepticism,” he said.

“Through the initial stages of this response, we have seen that there is probably a need for more regulation and legislation in this space,” he said.

Report an editorial error

Report a technical issue

Editorial code of conduct

Tickers mentioned in this story

Study and track financial data on any traded entity: click to open the full quote page. Data updated as of 19/04/24 4:00pm EDT.

SymbolName% changeLast
IMO-T
Imperial Oil
+1.19%95.63

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe