Pipeline Safety - The Canadian Context
TechnologyModern pipelines apply the latest technologies. The volume, pressure and movement of liquid or gases in a pipeline is constantly monitored by operators at numerous points along the system. Changes or variations can be evaluated and analyzed for the possibility of a problem that would indicate a potential leak or rupture. While every pipeline company is working to achieve incident-free operations, accidents do happen. In those instances, operators can shut down the pipeline systems quickly and safely.
Pipelines have long been the safest method to transport petroleum products. Improvements in technology, higher standards for site selection, installing and monitoring, and faster responses to potential problems combine to maximize environmental protection and minimize impacts.
Pipeline maintenance crews play a critical role in heading off the possibility of a problem. Welding operations, valve inspections, pipeline repairs, corrosion prevention system checks and other equipment maintenance tasks are done according to preestablished procedures, in concordance with legal standards and practices, by trained specialists. This daily maintenance of the system is conducted in addition to any repair and replacement projects required. Pipeline employees and contractors are also trained in emergency response procedures and work with local emergency responders if a pipeline accident were to occur.
The National Energy Board pipeline incident record
In Canada, pipelines that cross provincial boundaries or into the United States are regulated and monitored by the National Energy Board (NEB).
In 1999, pipeline operators under NEB regulation were required to develop and implement pipeline integrity management programs. The rupture rate reflects a major failure of a pipeline.
- From 1991 to the new regulation taking effect there was an average of 2.5 pipeline ruptures every year.
- From 2003 to 2009, the annual pipeline rupture rate recorded by the NEB has been one.
- There were no ruptures recorded on NEB pipelines from 2003 to 2006, and none again in 2008.
The NEB also records leaks, when the volume is more than 1.5 cubic metres. From 2000 to 2009, there were 16 liquid leaks from pipelines, although far more at pumping stations or storage terminals, where flanges, valves, pumps or storage tanks are located and the site is contained. Overall, the 10-year average for leaks from those typically contained pipeline parts is three per 1,000 km of pipeline.
Other improvements over the years
Of all the pipeline ruptures recorded by the NEB in 2009, none were on crude oil pipelines.
Canadaís industry standard for pipeline design, construction and operation is spelled out by the Canadian Standards Associationís Standard Z662: Oil and Gas Pipeline Systems. No pipeline ruptures have been recorded on pipeline systems built to these standards in the past 25 years - even as the standard itself has been strengthened and updated.
Pipeline maintenance crews play a critical role in heading off the possibility of a problem Pipeline maintenance begins before construction is even completed, and continues for the entire lifetime of the pipeline.