Pipeline perspectives: What are the strengths and weaknesses of Canada’s pipeline system?

The “pipeline perspectives” blog series features views from pipeline critics and stakeholders who have agreed to share their ideas and concerns with the industry by participating in CEPA’s External Advisory Panel (EAP). Read more about the EAP here.

You’ve probably heard this before: “If you’re not moving forwards, you’re moving backwards.”

Pipeline companies know they need to constantly move their performance forward if they want to earn the trust of Canadians. That’s why CEPA is listening to feedback from people outside the industry. People like Dr. Bob Page.

Dr. Page, who is a director with the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency, has decades of experience finding ways to balance development and sustainability. As a member of CEPA’s External Advisory Panel (EAP), he is sharing with the industry his perspective on how to improve pipeline performance and public credibility.

In this Q & A, Dr. Page, who also chairs the International Environmental Standards Board (ISO 14,000 series) out of Geneva, Switzerland, shares his candid thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of Canada’s pipeline system.

Q: What do you think is the greatest strength of Canada’s pipeline industry?

A: Our greatest strength is our professional experience and skills in building some of the longest and most difficult pipeline systems in the world.

Q: What is your greatest concern with the industry?

A: My greatest concern today is the public credibility deficit and lack of trust in the industry. I would like CEPA to be the leader in the design and implementation of new global ISO (International Organization for Standardization) pipeline integrity standards to show its leadership role and its commitment to pipeline integrity for itself and the industry.

The public has this view that pipelines are faulty and leak frequently, so by working with the acknowledged standards leader (ISO from Geneva), we document for public credibility that we have been a leader in designing and implementing the best pipeline standards in the world.

Q: You have an extensive background in finding a balance between environmental sustainability and economic development. What strengths does Canada’s pipeline industry have in terms of minimizing environmental impact? Where does the industry need to improve?

A: Canada and the pipeline industry have extensive experience on finding the middle ground between the environment, First Nations and economic development within some of the harshest climates in the world.

Canada and the pipeline industry have extensive experience on finding the middle ground between the environment, First Nations and economic development within some of the harshest climates in the world.

Today, we need new policy and technology innovation, we need evidence-based policy discussion, and we need the industry to get its message out through independent third parties (such as think tanks and universities) with the public credibility that industry and governments lack.

The industry needs to improve the clarity of its science and technology communication and its risk taking by speaking through third parties. We have to recognize that in spite of all the efforts we are losing the battle today for public support.

Q: What role do you see pipelines playing in a sustainable future for Canada?

A: We are living in an era of transition from fossil to non-carbon fuels. However, oil and gas will be required – especially in the developing world – for many decades yet. In this era of transition, pipelines move oil and gas on land in the cheapest, safest, and most environmentally appropriate fashion. Our search for the perfect solution sometimes blinds us from the best (solution).

Want another perspective? Read other posts from CEPA’s EAP panelists:

  • A pipeline critic’s perspective: CEPA speaks with the Pipeline Safety Trust

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.