They always get their man.

Alberta’s ministry of forestry and parks has called in the RCMP’s national security team to investigate the cause of a pipeline explosion in northern Alberta this week that sparked one of the first forest fires of the season.

On Tuesday, a section of the NOVA system, owned by Calgary-based TC Energy, ruptured about 40 km northwest of Edson. It took firefighters from the Alberta Forest Service and Yellowhead County fire departments along with helicopters and other equipment almost two days to bring the ensuing blaze under control.

On Friday, the RCMP said its Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) was dispatched with the Edson RCMP to help TC and regulatory authorities determine the cause of the explosion.

A pipeline explosion on the NOVA system triggered a wildfire northwest of Edson on Tuesday.

Speaking the day before at a news conference to discuss the Alberta governments forest fighting plans, Forestry Minister Todd Loewen said the Mounties are helping to investigate the cause of the rupture, including possible sabotage.

“We have no indication of any kind of cause on that fire yet… the investigation is happening,” Loewen said.

“The national security investigation team of the RCMP are investigating the cause. My understanding, since the cause was unknown, that’s standard practice for them to come in on anything that’s unknown.”

On its website, the RCMP says the responsibility of the INSET’s mandate includes national security responsibilities for critical infrastructure protection and critical incident management including acts of terrorism, espionage, sabotage and cyber-security.

Fire crew are holding a man-made fire as a result of a pipeline explosion.

The threat is real.

In 2021 hackers shut down the Colonial Pipeline for a week affecting deliveries of gasoline and jet fuel to 17 US states.

Then in 2023, Calgary-based Suncor Energy confirmed hackers breached its Petro-Canada retail sites but only managed to steal credit card numbers; field operations were unaffected.

This February, an unknown group called AlphV affiliated with the DarkSide malware group responsible for the Colonial attack, claimed responsibility for a cyberattack that took place last November on the Trans-Northern pipeline that ships 221,000 barrels per day of refined product between Toronto and Montreal and Edmonton to Calgary.

That prompted the Canadian Energy Regulator to require companies to implement detailed security management programs to protect pipelines and their operations. 

“The investigation shows that there is nothing to suggest that this was a national security incident,” ~RCMP

To date, most incidents have been so-called ‘ransom ware’ attacks but authorities worry that critical infrastructure systems such as pipelines could become terrorist targets.

Last April, pro-Russian ‘hacktivists’ claimed they could remotely “increase valve pressure, disable alarms and initiate an emergency shutdown of an unspecified gas distribution station” located in Canada, even triggering an explosion due to this country’s support for Ukraine.

However, the RCMP said hackers aren’t suspected in this case.

“The investigation shows that there is nothing to suggest that this was a national security incident,” Mounties said in a statement.

Officials say the investigation into what caused Tuesday’s blast could take months or years.

Pipeline Observer


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