Pipeline control rooms and safety

Pipeline Control Room - Enbridge

Pipeline Monitoring Room

Canada’s pipelines are already some of the safest in the world, but pipeline companies are collaborating in critical areas of safety such as control room management because they know a collective effort is necessary if they want to meet their goal of zero incidents and earn the trust of Canadians.

Why are control rooms crucial to maintaining safe pipelines? Because they are “the eyes and ears of the pipeline system,” explained A.L. Forth, a consultant for Trans-Northern Pipelines and a member of the CEPA Integrity First® pilot test group on control room management.

Pipeline companies are working together through the CEPA Integrity First program to create a guidance document that aids in improving control room management for all of CEPA’s member companies.

“Companies all have different ideas on what makes an effective control room system,” said Steffan Kramer, a consultant and pilot test group workshop facilitator. “But the companies work together very well, and by reaching a consensus, you end up with a system that is much stronger for everyone.”

Here are just two of the areas of control room management that pipeline companies are working together on:

1. Control rooms and technology

Canadian pipelines are monitored from control rooms 24/7.

These control rooms are equipped with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that collect information such as temperature, flow rate and pressure from sensors along the pipeline route. Automatic leak detection alarms are triggered if a problem is detected.

“Technology continues to advance to make (leak detection) better, to make it easier to detect the smaller leaks and to be able to respond effectively,” said Forth.

The control room management guidance document will outline best practices for alarm management systems to ensure the most advanced technologies for leak detection are always being implemented across Canada.

2. Technicians and training

Control rooms are staffed by technicians who undergo rigorous training to ensure they can make timely and informed decisions if an incident occurs.

“They see what’s going on. They respond to any upsets within the pipeline system, so they can effectively manage and eliminate any incidents,” said Forth.

The control room guidance document will establish standards for areas including competency, fatigue management and information management to ensure all personnel are qualified, able and equipped to prevent incidents.

Next steps in Control Room Performance

The guidance document is currently being pilot tested. Once it is finalized and launched to all member companies, it will improve performance across the entire pipeline industry because companies will have a tool to help them evaluate where their current systems can be improved.

“I believe (the document) will standardize and improve performance. It raises the bar for integrity,” said Forth.

Learn more about maintaining safe pipelines:

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 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.