5 interesting facts about pipeline standards

Standards play an important role in keeping Canadians safe. There are standards for cars, medical equipment . . . and, of course, there are standards for pipelines. Canada operates some of the safest pipelines in the world because pipelines need to meet rigorous technical standards.

“(Canada’s) pipeline standards are continually reviewed and updated by our members to incorporate the latest advancements in technology and best practices to make pipelines safer,” said Laura Pelan, a standards manager with the CSA Group (Canadian Standards Association), an organization that develops pipeline standards in Canada.

Pelan helped explain some facts about pipeline standards that Canadians may not know:

Note: Generally, pipeline-related standards are part of the CSA Z662 Standard for Oil and Gas Pipeline Systems.

1. Pipeline standards are extensive

“The current edition of Z662 contains over 500 pages of both prescriptive and performance-based technical requirements,” explained Pelan.

The document is so long because the standard covers the design, construction, operation and maintenance of pipelines. Plus, Pelan explained that in 2007 pipeline standards started to incorporate requirements for safety management systems as well.

2. Pipeline standards are continuously improving

“Once published, standards are living documents, continually revised and refreshed to address changing requirements and emerging technologies,” said Pelan.

Each standard is reviewed at least every five years, and new standards are developed as required. For example, this fall CSA Group will publish new standards relating to coatings for steel pipelines.

3. Experts develop pipeline standards

Pipeline standards are developed and maintained by a committee of volunteer experts.

“Our volunteer committee members are selected to represent interest groups most likely to be affected by the standard, and all are technical experts in their field,” explained Pelan.

Representatives from both CEPA and its member companies are among the volunteers who help develop standards. Other volunteers include suppliers, fabricators, transmission users, distribution users, interest groups and regulators.

4. The public has a say

CSA Group has an extensive process for how standards are developed. An important part of that process is public review. Before a standard is approved, CSA Group makes a draft of the proposed requirement available for public review for a minimum of 60 days.

“All public comments received are considered by the responsible committee,” said Pelan.

5. Pipeline standards are the law

CSA Group develops standards for many industries, and sometimes compliance with their guidelines is voluntary. However, because pipeline standards are part of provincial and federal regulations, the standards are mandatory for pipeline companies operating under the regulators’ jurisdiction.

“In Canada, federal and provincial pipeline regulations do not incorporate but instead directly reference the CSA Z662 Standard in whole, thus giving it the force of law,” explained Pelan.

Watch this video to learn more about the role of standards in pipeline regulations:

Check CEPA’s blog next week for an in-depth look at how standards are developed.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2013, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.