Technical requirements for pipelines: How are standards developed?

Canada has rigorous technical standards for its pipelines. These requirements cover every aspect of pipeline operations from safety management systems to pipeline coatings.

“The Z662 (pipeline) standard is unique in that it uses a pipeline lifecycle approach, which means it covers everything from design and construction through to operation,” said Laura Pelan, a standards manager with CSA Group (Canadian Standards Association), an organization that develops pipeline standards in Canada.

Last week’s blog post outlined five interesting facts about pipeline standards. This week’s post will give you an in-depth look at how these important technical requirements are developed.

Who develops pipeline standards?

Standards are written and updated by volunteer committees of technical experts from industry, government and general interest groups.

A strategic steering committee, a technical committee and numerous technical sub-committees and working groups all collaborate to create and maintain safety focused pipeline standards.

“Each committee is structured to capitalize on the combined strengths and expertise of its members, with no single group dominating,” said Pelan.

How are pipeline standards developed? 

This flowchart outlines the standards development process:

Source: CSA Group

Source: CSA Group

Here is how the process works:

Once a new standard is proposed, the public is notified.

“Such notice is given to expand consultation with affected stakeholders and to improve input early in the process by allowing unidentified stakeholders the opportunity to request participation, to offer their comments or to otherwise keep abreast of the progress of the project,” said Pelan.

The Z662 standard itself is generated in the preparatory and committee stages. Ten technical subcommittees work together to create a draft of the standard. Then, the main technical committee reviews and approves the draft.

Next, during the enquiry stage, a draft of the standard is made available for public comment for a minimum of 60 days. The committee then takes this feedback into consideration.

Finally, the technical committee votes on the final draft of the standard – the approval stage. If the standard is approved, it is published.

How are standards kept up-to-date?

Maintaining safe pipelines requires that standards be continually improved to incorporate emerging technologies and best practices (the maintenance stage).

“A new edition of Z662 is published every four years, in addition to amendments as required,” said Pelan.

In addition to publishing updates, all existing CSA Group standards are reviewed at least every five years. New standards are also added as required.

“For example, this fall we will see the publication of new standards in the areas of emergency preparedness and response for the petroleum and natural gas industry and field-applied external coatings for steel pipeline systems,” said Pelan.

Canada’s pipeline standards are world class

Canada’s pipeline standards are internationally recognized because they are extensive (the current publication is over 500 pages long); they cover design, construction, operation and maintenance; and they are continually updated. Plus, pipeline standards are part of provincial and federal regulations, which means they are not just guidelines – they are the law.

“We work closely with provincial and federal regulators and understand that countries around the world look to Canada’s pipeline regulation systems because it makes Canadian pipelines some of the safest in the world,” said Pelan.

Want to learn more about regulations and pipeline standards in Canada?

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.