Pipeline Observer

Safety and security a driving force for collaboration

Published in February, 2019

Working together helps to ensure the highest standards

Interfering with infrastructure can also have extensive impacts in other areas, such as a prolonged loss of essential services.

By Patrick Smyth

As new transmission pipeline projects start to move forward, operators are working diligently with stakeholders in Canada and across the border to ensure these pipelines are built with safety and security top-of-mind.

As with any large-scale infrastructure project, there is significant planning before, during and after a pipeline project has been completed. And at every step, safety is the first priority of the members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) who transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily crude and natural gas to market.

That includes protecting against security issues.

In the last year, there have been a number of pipeline-tampering incidents. This is extremely dangerous, not only for the individuals conducting the illegal activity, but for the general public and environment. An unauthorized and unscheduled valve closure could result in unpredicted pressure changes, which can pose serious risks.

Interfering with infrastructure can also have extensive impacts in other areas, such as a prolonged loss of essential services, according to Public Safety Canada.

That’s why our members work together to address security issues. They tap into many sources, including governments, law enforcement and intelligence agencies to understand and prepare for any possible security threats.

We also encourage landowners and the general public to be vigilant and to contact local authorities if they notice suspicious activity around pipeline facilities in their area.

CEPA members respect the rights of Canadians to express individual perspectives about energy development and transportation, but encourage them to do it in a peaceful and respectful way.

How CEPA members work together on safety

Beyond ensuring pipelines are secure, CEPA members are also working together to ensure their safety practices and operations reach the highest standards. 

Pipelines remain the safest and most efficient way to move the energy Canadians rely on every day.  In 2015, our members achieved a 99.999 per cent safety record — a good record indeed, but our goal is to have zero incidents. Our pipelines are monitored 24/7 from sophisticated control rooms that can shut down a pipeline immediately, if necessary.

Our members do not compete on safety; they have entered into a Mutual Emergency Assistance Agreement (MEAA) that serves to strengthen emergency response. The agreement formalizes the existing practice of members requesting assistance from each other. Help may be in the form of personnel, equipment, tools or specialized response advice, depending on the situation.

It’s an arrangement that considerably increases the highly trained and coordinated resources available during an emergency.

In 2017, CEPA members are ensuring the safety of ongoing operations through a number of key initiatives, including:

1. Industry-wide improvement program

CEPA Integrity First represents the commitment of our members to collaborate and share best practices in the areas of safety, environment and socio-economics. The program strengthens the pipeline industry’s performance in critical areas like control room management, emergency management and pipeline integrity. Integrity First allows members to constantly self-examine their practices and take a systematic approach to improvement. In 2016, CEPA piloted a third-party verification phase that will help to increase credibility with all stakeholders.

2. Technology and innovation

CEPA members are collaborating on a national strategy to develop best-in-class pipeline leak detection technologies. Part of that exercise includes assessing emerging technologies and subsequently implementing the best ones on a national scale.

The strategy is enabling advances in leak detection, from equipment deployed in the field to control rooms where leaks can be pinpointed immediately via remote sensing. Other advancements such as satellite imaging, heat sensing, fibre optics and the use of drones provide enhanced understanding of how facilities are operating at any given point in time.

3. Safety Culture

Our members are committed to ensuring that every employee and contractor has safety ingrained into their jobs and their lives, and they feel empowered and are recognized for making safe decisions.

From ensuring employees and contractors are well trained to keeping work sites safe, CEPA members are focused on building a strong industry-wide safety culture. When safety is always top-of-mind, everyone is aware of the known hazards, while remaining vigilant to new emerging hazards.

Patrick Smyth is Vice President, Safety & Engineering, with the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.