The people of pipelines: Dale McClary, pipeline maintenance technician

This week we continue our people of pipelines series, which shines the spotlight on some of the dedicated people working in the pipeline industry. These people work every day to promote and protect the safe operation of pipelines so that we receive the energy that fuels our daily lives.

And now we’d like to introduce you to:

Dale McClary, Pipeline Maintenance Technician for Kinder Morgan

Time on the job:

May 1, 2013 marked the beginning of my 24th year with Kinder Morgan.


Whatcom and Skagit Counties, Washington state

Required safety training/tickets etc.:

  • Company training program
  • Competency Qualification Program – Operative Qualification (OQ)
  • Commercial Drivers License
  • First Aid
  • Confined Space Entry Training

Everything I do I have to be current and checked off on through regular training.

What my job entails:

Dale McClary (orange vest) with the Kamloops Pipeline maintenance crew

Dale McClary (orange vest) with the Kamloops Pipeline maintenance crew

I have a strong background in pipeline operations and my more specialized skills are in pipeline maintenance. This includes actually doing construction, looking after construction projects, special projects and actually working on the pipe, like cutting out a section. I currently spend the majority of my time on pipeline maintenance activities. This involves going out and digging to locate potential anomalies or defect areas on a pipe.

I’m located at a pump station. Our two metre stations here in Washington, Ferndale and Anacortes, are operated remotely from our control centre in Edmonton, Alberta and we essentially back them up. I work closely with technical services out of our head office. They look after the smart tools that get run through the lines. Out of the information that they get from vendors, they generate dig lists and work activities, which are sent down to the pipeline maintenance groups.

I’ve just finished working on two dig lists that we started last summer. Basically this involved going out with our contractors to locate the identified areas and excavate down to the pipe. We bring in third-party non-destructive testing contractors to look at the metallurgical structure of the steel and make sure that it’s to code, or determine if we have to put a sleeve on it or some other type of repair protocol. I worked on that for an extensive period of time and right now I’m finishing up the final paperwork process for those projects. This involves a great deal of computer entry, documentation, photographs and certification.

How my job contributes to the overall safety of the pipeline industry:

We have an established safety culture. We’ve been given the tools and the equipment to make sure that we can facilitate safety at all times. Whether it’s in our daily routines or an emergency response situation, we are equipped with what we need to do our job safely. Before we start a project we have job hazard assessment meetings and we complete critical task analysis checklists. We have safe work permits on the day we do the job and tailgate checklists that we complete for every single task we do.

Everybody has the ability and responsibility to shut down the pipeline without repercussions if there’s an incident or someone sees something wrong. That is a company policy.

How I’ve trained to respond to a pipeline emergency, like a spill:

We have to demonstrate and respond twice a year with our gear to different areas and practice our emergency response (PDF). This includes tabletop exercises where you pretend to be responding to an emergency in real time.

What my role would be in a pipeline emergency:

Because I work in the field I am considered part of the operations group. In the case of an emergency I would be the field team leader. If we had an odour complaint or a leak, I would be the person sent there immediately to assess and evaluate the situation and communicate back to the control centre and my supervisor.

What I enjoy most about my job:

My favourite part of doing what I do is interacting with our crew, line wide. We have a number of employees who are sons or daughters of people who have spent their careers with us. It’s interesting and fun to be in a position where I can impart some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to this younger generation. Together we can work to keep the tradition of running this safe, efficient pipeline going for many years to come.

What you might be surprised to learn about my job:

Everything we do on the pipeline maintenance side is incredibly detailed and computerized. It’s becoming a digital picture – the testing we do on the pipe and the records we keep – everything is absolutely 21st century, state of the art. We use these new tools for testing and protocols to make sure that the pipeline system is in proper shape and ready to go all the time. It’s not just digging a hole, fixing something and then covering it back up. It’s incredibly detail oriented.

We have laptop computers out in the field that allow us to communicate in real time through air cards or Wi-Fi with our head office engineering staff. And if we have an issue we can send them a picture and we can collaborate on a solution on the spot and without delay.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 110,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2011, 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.