How pipeline companies are taking action against a Canadian crop killer (part 2)

Last week’s post looked at club root; an invasive soil pathogen that attacks canola crops and poses a serious threat to farmers’ livelihoods. This week we explore the measures Canadian transmission pipeline companies are taking to ensure they aren’t spreading club root during their construction, reclamation and maintenance activities.

This is a continuation of our conversation with Dave Kerr, principal and oil and gas market sector leader, at Golder Associates:

Q: What are pipeline companies doing to make sure they don’t contribute to the problem?

Kerr: “Pipeline companies understand they have a duty of care to perform when they plan and build pipeline projects. It’s still early days in terms of widespread acceptance of practices that are truly practical and work. But industry associations are creating guidelines and procedures for best practices that are becoming increasingly adopted.”

Q: Is managing club root centred mostly around best practices or innovation?

Kerr: “Best practices are being actively developed, but there’s also a lot of innovation around how do you apply those best practices. We’ve been involved in a number of projects this year where we’re using remote sensing tools, site sampling and laboratory analysis in combination with input from landowners.”

Kerr described this as a three-pronged approach:

1. Identifying the likelihood that clubroot is present:

Kerr: “Geographic Information System (GIS) is used to help identify susceptible areas (for instance low-lying or poorly drained areas, as well as field access points where farm machinery and equipment enter and exit fields). Field sampling points are chosen based on that data and the pipeline right of way field conditions; and then mapped on aerial photographic imagery that can be analyzed at a variety of scales (similar to Google Earth type mapping).”

2. Field sampling:

Pipeline company employees (sampling crews) visit all the field sampling points, recording data on a tablet device so it can be uploaded in real time to a central office database.

Soil analysis is conducted by an accredited laboratory and posted to an integrated database. The database also includes land use history (for instance canola crop rotations), information from landowners and surveys, providing an indication of club root presence or absence.

Sharing information between pipeline companies and landowners allows for more effective mitigation measures to be developed.

3. Mitigation measures:

pipeline companies spraying to contain club rootAs sampling crews move from one point to another, they follow stringent biosecurity measures (a set of preventive measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases in crops and livestock) to prevent them from transferring any soil. This includes wearing disposable booties, and carefully washing soil sampling equipment, boots and gloves with a mild disinfectant.

Then, as planning moves to construction, wash stations are positioned along the right of way. Mitigation measures range from mechanically removing topsoil from equipment, to pressure washing and the use of disinfectants, depending on the presence or absence of club root.


Pipeline companies taking a proactive approach to club root management

So, how do pipeline companies compare to other industries when it comes to club root management? Kerr said: “I would say pipeline companies are perhaps the most active at present given the obvious link between soil, construction and the potential risk with soil transfer”.

For more on how pipeline companies are working to protect Canada’s vegetation and ecosystems, read these other blog posts:

  • Spotlight on Saskatchewan: where pipelines meet conservation trails
  • Saving Canada’s wetlands: A conservation group that’s working with pipeline companies

And check out CEPA’s fact sheet, to learn more about how pipeline companies collaborate with landowners and other stakeholders during the pipeline planning process.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 117,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2014, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.4 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.