Are Canadian Pipelines Safe?
Are Canadian Pipelines Safe?
As many of us know, pipelines are the safest and most environmentally sound way of transporting large quantities of crude oil and natural gas over land. Transmission pipelines in Canada operate with a 99.999% safety record, and incidents on pipelines are rare.
But there are still common misconceptions pipeline companies combat daily about pipeline safety, maintenance and regulations. Many people are not aware that Canada has one of the most highly-regulated, safest pipeline industries in the world. There are over 30,000 km of pipelines inspected annually by in-line inspection tools and over $1.3 billion is spent on maintaining and monitoring Canadian transmission pipeline systems.
In addition, pipeline companies must meet numerous standards published by the Canadian Standards Association related to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of oil and gas pipeline systems. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies, which transport virtually all of the natural gas and crude oil produced in Canada to markets across North America.
Many people are also not aware that Pipeline Companies have strict protocols and standard of practices they must adhere to starting with:
Planning for the Lifetime of Pipeline Safety
Profitability is the name of the game for any business and when it comes to pipeline companies there is a common misconception that companies are willing to compromise pipeline safety to increase their profits.
In fact, the opposite is true, cutting safety is not considered a viable option for two reasons: The first being pipeline companies operate under financial regulation. The second and most important, in the event of a pipeline incident, pipeline companies are 100 percent responsible for the clean up of the spill and must ensure any impacted land is remediated to as close to the original condition as possible. Which means there are no financial incentives for pipeline companies to cut safety expenses.
As well, a pipeline company cannot just walk away from a pipeline – operators have a lifetime commitment to ensure their operations remain safe for the public and the environment, even if a pipeline isn’t being used. If an operator wants to permanently retire a line and associated facilities, it’s still responsible for long-term safety and environmental protection of the area.
Technology and Preventing Pipeline Corrosion
Technology is a powerful tool for protecting pipes from corrosion. Corrosion is preventable, and pipeline operators are committed to protecting pipelines from corroding using different techniques, including cathodic protection. A protective coating is applied inside pipes when they are being manufactured or during construction.
Cathodic protection is also used to prevent corrosion on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Pipeline companies are committed to preventing leaks and spills from happening in the first place. But they are always prepared for an emergency. That preparation includes thorough emergency response plans for each pipeline they operate, and outlines the specific steps and procedures for shutting the pipeline down, responding to the incident, protecting the public and worker safety, and cleaning up the environment.
Planning for Pipeline Safety
Canadian Pipelines are subject to strict regulations by a number of regulating bodies. The route selection, design and construction phases of the project are about maximizing safety and minimizing risks to Canadians and the environment.
While emergencies are a rare occurrence, Pipeline companies engage companies such as AiM Land to prepare extensive plans, preparation and practices to ensure they are ready for anything. Included in the Safety Planning is following Emergency Response Plans that are developed to cover any scenario. They are then rehearsed to ensure smooth execution. Pipeline companies also train and work with municipal Emergency Services to ensure they are prepared to assist in the event of an incident.
The pipeline industry is committed to delivering the energy Canadians need in the safest, most responsible way, and a big part of that is protecting the environment.
Choosing a route with the least impact is a mandate for pipeline companies. When planning begins, companies must first conduct an environmental assessment along the proposed pipeline route. Pipeline companies often work with Surface Land Operational Departments similar to those at AiM Land, who will evaluate the potential environmental effects and risks. The Operational Department teams will also identify the fish, wildlife and vegetation that need to be protected throughout the pipeline’s life.
After construction, the land along the pipeline is restored, using plans developed by experts in remediation. Plant life will be temporarily disturbed, but operators work hard to limit any disturbance – generally the area is fully recovered within five years.
Pipeline companies then are responsible for monitoring the reclaimed land for years afterward to ensure that the plants have been re-grown and the reclamation has been successful.
Monitoring Pipelines Safety
From the first day the product starts to flow, thousands of people work to ensure the product keeps flowing safely and securely through the line. The number one priority is achieving zero incidents, and pipeline companies are driving towards that goal by continuously improving the technologies, systems and safety culture that protect their lines.
Watching all the time
Canadian Pipeline companies have some of the most sophisticated pipeline control rooms in the world – whether Pipeline companies manage liquids or natural gas pipelines they all have a master control room where all their pipeline operations are monitored. Any changes are immediately sent to the control room, setting off alarms.
Photo Credit: AboutPipelines.com
In addition to remote sensors feeding information back to the control rooms, crews patrol the line doing regular maintenance and keeping a careful eye on the pipeline right-of-way. Video surveillance cameras, fitted with hydrocarbon sensors (hydrocarbons give off a unique infrared signature) are also being used as well as temperature sensors to detect leaks. Aircraft, like helicopters and drones, are also used to scrutinize pipelines from the air. Any changes are immediately transmitted to the control room, setting off alarms.
Between pipeline safety, environmental impact, advances in technology, continual monitoring and emergency plans, the business of transporting oil and gas to meet the energy needs of Canadians is no easy feat.
The companies and people responsible for this complicated business take their jobs very seriously. Teams like the those these at AiM Land are proud of their industry because they understand their work contributes the production and distribution of Canada’s most valuable natural resource, the resource that is expected to fuel the Canadian economy for decades to come.
To meet with the Operation Team at AiM Land – reach out to: