In case of emergency, industry is ready to respond

Canada is full of natural beauty. It’s incredible when you think about it, the many different experiences you can have from coast to coast to coast. From walking the rocky shores of Peggy’s Cove to trekking BC’s coast or fishing its rivers, Canada’s environment is something that every one of us values.

That’s exactly why CEPA members work hard to protect it by making safety and the environment their top priority.

And that’s why every effort is made to prevent pipeline incidents from occurring. But, if there is a spill or leak, industry is prepared to respond. Quickly, effectively and efficiently.

All CEPA member companies have an emergency management program that anticipates, prevents, manages and mitigates conditions if there is a pipeline incident. These plans are public, as required by the National Energy Board, and are available on CEPA member company websites.

To help inform those plans, CEPA members came together in 2015 to establish a set of guidelines recommending timelines for companies to follow in responding to an incident. The Response Time Guideline is intended to help companies identify and position people and equipment before an incident occurs, and to implement supporting procedures. This enables them to respond quickly and safely to any incident.

Incident response phases and timeline

These guidelines apply specifically to confirmed emergency events for CEPA member pipelines. After an incident is recognized, the response is divided into four phases:

Phase 1: Pipeline shutdown. When an emergency event has been identified, the pipeline is shut down immediately. This is done remotely by the pipeline’s control room.

Phase 2: Emergency response activities. Typically, within two hours an emergency response system and an incident command system are established. Emergency response activities in this phase may include setting up an emergency response structure and emergency operation centre.

Phase 3: Personnel on site. The company’s first responders arrive on site of the incident within three hours.

Phase 4: Equipment on site. Initial response equipment will be on site no more than six hours after the incident is recognized. On-site response can be achieved with employees, contractors or mutual aid/spill cooperatives. For oil, additional supporting requirements will take no more than 72 hours.

Occasionally, there will be extenuating circumstances that affect arrival times at an emergency site for phases 2 and 4. These include:

  • Safety of employees and the public – The safety of employees and the public is the first priority for CEPA members. Safety rules and regulations will always take priority over arriving at an emergency site at a particular time.
  • Remote locations – Access to a remote site affects the type and availability of resources, operational considerations and the safety of company staff.
  • Time of day – Certain transportation modes, such as helicopters, are restricted during low-light hours. Nighttime also increases the probability of animal strikes, requiring slower response speeds.
  • Weather conditions – Weather conditions can limit or alter the transportation mode used for response which would increase response timelines. For example, blizzard conditions can delay response times due to the need for slower speeds.
  • Communications – Arrival times could be affected by compromised communication infrastructure.
  • Road closures due to natural disasters – Arrival times could be affected by roads closed due to current weather conditions or past natural disasters (e.g. flooded highway, road damaged due to forest fire, earthquake, etc.).
  • Transportation issues – Arrival times could be affected by road closures or detours due to serious traffic accidents or rush hour traffic. Other impacts to local infrastructures could include power failure, road closures and road repair.
  • Site seizure – Local authorities may deny access to a site due to terrorism or civil unrest.
  • Other agency / government interference – During an area emergency, government agencies may second company resources like helicopters or other vehicles

While these guidelines are not intended to be a measure of performance during a response, they are an important part of ensuring that pipelines remain the safest and most responsible way to deliver the energy that Canadians use every day.