Control room: 3 ways Canada’s pipeline industry is raising the bar for safety

“Copy that, Houston.”

If you’ve ever watched a movie about space exploration, you know the control centre is instrumental to the safety of a mission.

Pipeline companies have their own “Houston.” Each pipeline in Canada is monitored from a control centre 24-7, and pipeline companies are working together to ensure Canada’s control rooms lead the world in terms of technology and safe operations.

Theo Banick, a group leader in pipeline system control at ATCO Pipelines, worked with other industry experts to develop CEPA’s new control room management guidance document. He said the new, industry-wide standard will help ensure CEPA’s members are “successful in maintaining pipeline safety and (will) outline a plan for continual improvement.”

Canada’s pipelines are already among the safest in the world, but here are three ways the guidance document will help make Canada’s control rooms even better.

1. We’re setting the bar high . . . for everyone

Company “A” invests in developing the best training, technology and procedures for its control room. Company “B” does the same. Which company’s control room will operate the safest pipelines?

If they combine their knowledge, both systems will be stronger and safer. That’s the whole idea behind CEPA’s control room management guidance document –­­ CEPA’s members worked together to develop one set of requirements and best practices that all companies can use to evaluate and improve their current systems.

“This control room management guidance document will help pipeline operators to build a standardized system, as well as reinforce an environment that assures (control room technicians) have the tools, knowledge, training and resources to be successful in maintaining safe pipelines,” explained Banick.

2. We’re tracking our performance

Banick explained that CEPA members will use the guidance document to conduct annual self-assessments of their control room management plans.

“(The document) allows for performance improvements to be tracked year to year with the goal of CEPA members making genuine measurable performance improvements,” said Banick.

3. We’re making sure the bar is always moving up 

This guidance document was developed through the CEPA Integrity First® program. Pipeline companies work together through CEPA Integrity First to share best practices, research and technological innovations in order to reach an important goal – zero incidents on Canada’s transmission pipelines.

The guidance document will provide a framework to ensure CEPA’s members are always striving for that goal by continuously improving their control room systems by utilizing the most advanced technologies and procedures.

“Commitment to annual self-assessments will provide an avenue to review current practices and look for continual improvement by exploring new control room management advancements,” Banick said.

Earning the trust of Canadians

Here’s the bottom line: Pipeline companies know that an incident on any pipeline erodes the public’s trust in the safety of all pipelines. By working together to constantly improve in areas such as control room management and by communicating transparently about those improvements, the industry is hoping to continue to earn the trust of Canadians.

Want to learn more about the guidance document? Read this blog post.

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.