25 years of advancement: How Canada’s transmission pipeline industry is working towards zero incidents

This is a big year for CEPA – in 2018 we celebrate 25 years of bringing together Canada’s transmission pipeline industry to focus on the safe operation of pipelines that deliver energy to every part of our vast nation.

Since the first pipeline was built in 1853, the industry has been focused on keeping product in the pipe. More recently, CEPA members have come together to work towards a shared goal of zero incidents.

Over the last 25 years, we have seen much advancement in technologies and initiatives to help us get to zero incidents. We’re not there yet, but here are just a few of the advancements we have seen in the last 25 years to help get us closer.

CEPA Integrity First®

In 2013, CEPA brought the industry together to form Integrity First.

Integrity First outlines policy principles to protect pipelines, the environment, and the socio-economic conditions of Canada’s citizens, and every CEPA member has signed on to work together to get to zero incidents.

 

GIS Technology

In preparation for installation, companies use geographic information systems (GIS) to ensure the pipeline minimizes environmental impact and geological risks. Although GIS have been used to capture, store and analyze geographic data since the 1800s, the technology has made incredible advances with the internet and ability to share information quickly and easily.

 

Identifying Geohazards

Pipeline route planning always includes a geohazard management program, which identifies potential hazards along the route. Pipeline operators use sophisticated database software to inventory geohazard sites (like water crossings) and advanced monitoring systems to watch out for potential events, such as landslides or earthquakes that could impact a pipeline.

 

Coating the Pipe

How do ships that sail in salty sea water not just turn into heaps of rust? Their hulls are covered in a coating designed to protect the metal against the elements.

Similar coatings are applied to protect pipelines from corrosion that can result from contact with moisture.

 

Advanced Monitoring

Once in place, pipelines are closely monitored using sophisticated data gathering and analysis, fibre-optic cables and specialized cameras that can detect tiny pinhole leaks.

In high-tech, around-the-clock control rooms, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems collect the data and alert technicians to any problems.

“Smart pigs” – in-line inspection tools that actually run inside the pipe – can “see” issues such as metal loss or cracks. And drones are used to monitor pipelines from the air.

 

Better Weld Testing

Technology has also improved how the industry tests the welds that hold pipelines together.

We’ve come a long way in 25 years, and just imagine what is in store in the next 25 as we continue to advance algorithms and monitoring technology.