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A time of transition: Three things we learned from Jeffrey Simpson

Jeffrey Simpson, author and long-time columnist with the Globe and Mail, has been following Canada’s energy industry for 40 years. Over his career, Jeffrey has watched the energy conversation evolve as renewable energy made its way onto Canadians’ radars and talk of a low-carbon future started to gain steam. These issues are important to all Canadians, and we are all working to better understand them. To help us do just that, CEPA is welcoming Jeffrey as the keynote speaker at CEPA’s upcoming annual dinner. We couldn’t pass up an opportunity to tap into his experience and ask him about his thoughts on a number of topics ahead of the event. His insights are informed by years of observation and research from the unique perspective of a national columnist covering energy, climate change, municipal politics and Canadian democracy (and much, much more). Here are three things that jumped out at us during that conversation: The energy transition is a global issue   The transition to a low-carbon future is not an issue that can be defined within regions. It is a global issue. The climate is not constrained by national or provincial borders, and in identifying solutions to dealing with it we must look much more broadly. All making it a very complicated issue. It becomes even more complicated when we consider how different jurisdictions and governments influence various levels of potential climate impacts. As a global issue, it requires global concerted action, then as a continental issue Canada must coordinate closely with the United States. Within Canada it gets even more complex. “The national government is responsible for overall economic policy and part of environment, which is a joint jurisdiction,” explains Simpson. “The provinces are involved because of this combination jurisdiction . . . and because they’re responsible under the constitution for natural resources, the exploitation of which is therefore a provincial matter.” And then, he explains, it gets down to the municipal level, which has the most direct impact on us as citizens. “They have a lot of power over things like building codes, public transit, incineration of garbage et cetera. Then individuals are involved. They may or may not decide to take action.”   Canada faces a unique situation   Canada is a unique country, we all know that. And we all take pride in knowing that we’re unique. But some of these same characteristics make a transition to a low-carbon future even more challenging within Canada. As Simpson says, “it’s more complicated in a country like Canada with vast distances, temperature variations and a growing population. More people create more emissions, more use of fuels to heat and move across the country.”   It’s a transition, not flipping a switch   Simpson believes that the energy transition will take a long time. The world is going to continue to use a lot of fossil fuels, which he believes will be the major driver of energy for 50 years. As Simpson puts it, “we just have to accept the fact that we’re in a long transition period. Pipelines will continue to play an indispensable role in moving fuels around.” There are many different views out there regarding the energy transition conversation. Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.   Read next: The pipeline link to climate change (and what’s being done about it)....

You have questions about pipelines. Here is where you can find some answers.

We know that you have questions about pipelines: Where are they? How often are there significant incidents? What products do they carry? These are fair questions. And given the way that pipelines are regulated in Canada, they’re not always the easiest to find answers to.Every pipeline operated in Canada is regulated based on jurisdiction. Pipelines that cross provincial or international borders are regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB), and pipelines that operate within a province/territory fall under the provincial/territorial regulator’s authority. All operators are responsible for reporting to regulators, including reporting incidents when they occur. Because regulators are responsible for different jurisdictions (they use slightly different measures for classifying incidents and present their information differently) it can get a little confusing trying to track down and sort through pipeline data in Canada. Here we have gathered a few of the ways you can get pipeline data in Canada. CEPA About Pipelines Map The About Pipelines Map shows liquids and natural gas transmission pipelines and related facilities operated by full members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. The map includes information about any incident on a transmission pipeline or a related facility that has been reported to regulators dating back to 2008. This is an interactive way to see where pipelines are in your community (and across Canada) and access information on incidents that occurred on transmission pipelines in any Canadian province or territory. National Energy Board (NEB) The NEB has a lot of data on pipelines and pipeline incidents. They have recently launched an interactive tool that helps users sort and visualize that data. It presents information on NEB data dating back to 2008 and is updated quarterly. This tool includes data on incidents at NEB-regulated pipelines and facilities. Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Of the 840,000 km of pipelines in Canada, 422,000 km of them are in Alberta. The AER regulates these pipelines, and has data on pipeline safety, industry performance and pipeline incidents in that province. They publish an annual Pipeline Performance report with all of that data, as well as an interactive compliance dashboard. British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission (BC OGC) The BC OGC regulates oil and gas activities in British Columbia, including exploration, development, pipeline transportation and reclamation. Their annual Pipeline Performance Summary includes data on types of pipelines, lengths, uses and overall pipeline incident rates in British Columbia. Transportation Safety Board (TSB) The TSB is an independent agency with a  mandate to advance transportation safety in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation. They have a watchlist that identifies key safety issues that need to be addressed to make Canada’s transportation system even safer, and publishes information on any investigations into incidents that are ongoing or complete. This is just a brief summary of the organizations that collect and report pipeline data in Canada. CEPA also has an annual Transmission Pipeline Industry Performance Report, which reports on data collected from our members, and we try to answer as many questions that Canadians have about pipelines as possible. You can check out our current Q&A in the Your Questions section of our website, or submit questions that you would like answered.   Read next: You have high standards. And so do we. So let's talk about them.   ...

25 years of advancement: How Canada’s transmission pipeline industry is working towards zero incidents

This is a big year for CEPA – in 2018 we celebrate 25 years of bringing together Canada’s transmission pipeline industry to focus on the safe operation of pipelines that deliver energy to every part of our vast nation. Since the first pipeline was built in 1853, the industry has been focused on keeping product in the pipe. More recently, CEPA members have come together to work towards a shared goal of zero incidents. Over the last 25 years, we have seen much advancement in technologies and initiatives to help us get to zero incidents. We’re not there yet, but here are just a few of the advancements we have seen in the last 25 years to help get us closer. CEPA Integrity First® In 2012, CEPA brought the industry together to form Integrity First. Integrity First outlines policy principles to protect pipelines, the environment, and the socio-economic conditions of Canada’s citizens, and every CEPA member has signed on to work together to get to zero incidents.   GIS Technology In preparation for installation, companies use geographic information systems (GIS) to ensure the pipeline minimizes environmental impact and geological risks. Although GIS have been used to capture, store and analyze geographic data since the 1800s, the technology has made incredible advances with the internet and ability to share information quickly and easily.   Identifying Geohazards Pipeline route planning always includes a geohazard management program, which identifies potential hazards along the route. Pipeline operators use sophisticated database software to inventory geohazard sites (like water crossings) and advanced monitoring systems to watch out for potential events, such as landslides or earthquakes that could impact a pipeline.   Coating the Pipe How do ships that sail in salty sea water not just turn into heaps of rust? Their hulls are covered in a coating designed to protect the metal against the elements. Similar coatings are applied to protect pipelines from corrosion that can result from contact with moisture.   Advanced Monitoring Once in place, pipelines are closely monitored using sophisticated data gathering and analysis, fibre-optic cables and specialized cameras that can detect tiny pinhole leaks. In high-tech, around-the-clock control rooms, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems collect the data and alert technicians to any problems. “Smart pigs” – in-line inspection tools that actually run inside the pipe – can “see” issues such as metal loss or cracks. And drones are used to monitor pipelines from the air.   Better Weld Testing Technology has also improved how the industry tests the welds that hold pipelines together. We’ve come a long way in 25 years, and just imagine what is in store in the next 25 as we continue to advance algorithms and monitoring technology. ...

Year in review: Six key developments of 2017

The holiday season is a good time to reflect on the year that has passed, and look ahead to what’s coming in the new year. 2017 was a year of challenges and opportunities for the pipeline industry as the range of issues surrounding pipelines grew with significant impacts. Here are six key developments that helped shape an eventful year in 2017:Project approvals In March, President Trump approved the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, clearing the way for the 1,897 kilometre project that will run from Alberta to refineries in the U.S. KXL cleared its final hurdle in Nebraska in November when the state’s Public Service Commission approved an alternate route for the project. Delays and cancellations  Construction on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) was supposed to begin in 2017, however challenges with permitting and regulatory approvals have resulted in delays. TransCanada was forced to make a difficult decision in October, when it announced it would not move forward with its Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline Project, following regulatory changes and uncertainty. Progress on other projects From an expansion to Pembina’s pipeline network in northeastern B.C., to Inter Pipeline’s approval of a major plant that will convert propane to plastic, CEPA members made great progress in 2017. Significant investments were also made to expand a natural gas pipeline network in Alberta and B.C. over the next four years. Regulatory uncertainty The industry faced regulatory uncertainty on several fronts in 2017. While the federal government dug deeper into the details of its review into the way pipeline projects are approved and regulated, concerns grew about the industry’s ability to remain competitive in the global market. Energy transition Canada’s move to a low-carbon energy future dominated discussions in 2017. The transmission pipeline industry will play a constructive role in the transition and will remain a critical part of Canada’s energy future as the country strives to meet its environmental targets. No matter what is happening in the industry, our number one priority is always safety. The transmission pipeline industry is more focused than ever on continuously improving our operations to reach our goal of zero incidents. CEPA’s members are working together through our signature program, CEPA Integrity First®, sharing information and learnings to better the industry as a whole. The transmission pipeline industry is a major economic driver for Canada, and oil and gas will continue to play an important role in fueling Canadians’ lifestyles for years to come. In 2018, as CEPA celebrates our 25th anniversary, we will remain focused on safety and ensuring we are delivering the energy Canadians need in the safest and most responsible way.  ...

How will we use oil and gas over the holidays?

It's turkey-cooking, cookie-baking, tree-lighting, online-shopping season - a time of year when we tend to use a little extra energy, especially at home. But we may also use more transportation fuels. If you're not shopping online, you're probably taking the car to the mall; and if your family isn't across town, you might be driving or flying out to visit them. How do oil and gas fuel the festivities?...

Interfering with pipelines puts the public at risk

Pipelines are safe, complex systems that are a part of the network of critical infrastructure that includes powerlines, airports and roads. Tampering with infrastructure and utilities is extremely dangerous – not only for the person or people causing the damage – but for surrounding communities, the public and the environment as well. When it comes to pipelines, an unauthorized and unscheduled valve closure or damage to a pipe before it’s in the ground poses serious risks.This is a serious safety issue. Because safety is the number one priority for members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), they address issues that put pipelines and the safety of communities at risk (such as tampering), and have plans in place to mitigate those risks. As a result of those plans, any time there has been a tampering incident, pipeline operators have quickly been able to respond and manage it safely. Several high-profile tampering incidents have captured news headlines in recent years. In a 2011 incident, a Canadian Natural Resources pipeline was vandalized near the Alberta/British Columbia border, causing a leak that spilled thousands of litres of oil. In 2016, activists turned off the valves of five pipelines in an effort to disrupt the movement of oil across North America. Another activist used a torch to burn a hole through a section of pipe. Not only are these incidents dangerous – they are counter-intuitive. In most cases, the activists or groups involved in the tampering are doing so to raise awareness about their beliefs, whether it’s relating to the environment or safety. However, sabotaging pipelines does the exact opposite of what they are trying to accomplish by creating situations that could lead to spills or other problems, ultimately creating risks for society and impeding the industry’s efforts to safely transport the energy Canadians rely on every day. CEPA and Canada’s transmission pipeline operators respect Canadians’ rights to freedom of speech and protest, and share the belief that we are fortunate to live in a country where we all have the right to vocalize our concerns. But safety comes first, and when people do choose to protest they must do so safely and legally to avoid putting the public, environment and Canada’s critical energy infrastructure at risk. CEPA members are committed to delivering energy to Canadians in the safest and most responsible way, and this includes protecting transmission pipelines and the crucial role they play in the Canadian economy and citizens’ daily lives. In fact, CEPA members are continuously improving their safety and security protocols, including guarding against cyber threats and collaborating with first responders. Find out more about how CEPA members are vigilant about monitoring and protecting pipelines....

CEPA members are ready to respond to every emergency

Long before a pipeline is laid in the ground, pipeline operators have an emergency response plan in place. Safety and emergency preparedness are the industry’s number one priority. CEPA members’ emergency plans reflect that with their complexity and detail, covering every possible scenario.Incident management When an incident occurs, the first steps in responding can include: Remotely closing valves and shutting down the affected section of pipe to cut off the flow of product. This is done by the pipeline control room that operates 24/7 365 days a year. Dispatching first responders and clean-up crews to the incident site. Notifying the appropriate landowners, stakeholders and regulatory bodies. Once responders are on site, work begins to contain the product to minimize spreading and protecting nearby wildlife, water bodies and vegetation. In addition to initial response activities, emergency responders and company personnel assess and begin repairing the damaged section of pipeline. Extensive work is done to remediate and restore the site, which may include cleaning soil and planting vegetation. Affected areas are then monitored to ensure no further action is required. The primary focus of responding to an emergency is protecting employees, communities and the environment. Learn more about what is included in an emergency response plan. Collaboration CEPA members are continually working toward a goal of zero incidents. If something does go wrong, CEPA members often work together with local first responders and other pipeline operators to ensure the safety of communities and protection of the environment. In 2016, CEPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) as a means to enhance awareness of first responders. CEPA has led firefighter awareness and training sessions to help ensure both the safety of first responders and fast responses to incidents. When incidents occur, they impact the entire industry. And every CEPA member company is committed to responding to incidents in the most efficient and effective way to minimize any impact to the environment and nearby communities. That’s why each CEPA member has signed the Mutual Emergency Assistance Agreement (MEAA), which has been in place since 2013. The MEAA allows CEPA members to ask for assistance from another member company during a pipeline-related emergency. This assistance can come in the form of human resources, equipment and tools. Find out more about how we collaborate. Practice, practice, practice CEPA member companies regularly hold emergency preparedness training exercises. In fact, CEPA members perform approximately 335 exercises a year — almost one every day. During an emergency, time is of the essence. That is why workers who participate in practice scenarios and respond to real-life incidents also have constant access to specialized emergency response equipment strategically placed at various sites, so they can act quickly to minimize the impact to communities and the environment in the event of an incident. Regulation oversees our operations Regulatory agencies in Canada require every pipeline operator to have an emergency management program, which includes comprehensive emergency response plans. When pipelines cross provincial borders, the National Energy Board regulates and audits the plans; while provincial pipelines are regulated by the provinces. These strict regulations are another layer of vigilance when it comes to pipeline safety. Plans are updated regularly, and audited and reviewed by the appropriate regulatory bodies. Pipelines remain the safest method of transporting the energy Canadians use every day. Should an incident ever occur, CEPA members are ready, able and equipped to respond in a safe and timely manner....

Pipelines deliver energy. But how is that energy used?

We use a lot of energy. In fact, Canadians are some of the world’s highest energy users per person. We use slightly more energy per capita than the U.S., and more than Norway (which has a similar climate, but not the vast distances that energy must be transported in Canada). That energy demand is met by Canada’s diverse mix of natural resources. Our electrical grids alone are powered by oil, natural gas, coal, hydro, nuclear power and wind. Add in the fuel required to drive our cars and heat our homes, and you have a substantial need for reliable, affordable energy. In today’s environment you can’t talk about energy for too long before the topic of emissions comes up.To find out how much energy Canadians use and what our related emissions are, we turned to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). As part of its mandate to “strengthen and expand Canada’s commitment to energy efficiency and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change,” NRCan published the 14th edition of its Energy Use Data Handbook earlier in 2017, covering the years 1990 to 2014 — the most recent year for which information is available. First, a quick primer: NRCan uses the petajoule, or PJ, as its energy measurement. A petajoule equals one quadrillion joules. And a joule is the work required to produce one watt of power for one second. For perspective, a central air conditioner uses approximately 3,000 watts of power every hour. That equals 3 x 10-12 petajoules. So when NRCan reports energy consumption in petajoules, they’re talking about a lot of energy. In 1990, Canadians used 1,424.5 PJ in their homes for such things as space and water heating, appliance use, cooling, lighting and so on. Their energy mix included electricity, natural gas, heating oil and “other” forms of energy. By 2014, that number had increased by 9.5 per cent. Over the same period, however, emissions from using energy in homes actually dropped four per cent. The drop in emissions despite the increase in use can be attributed primarily to an increase in efficiency of household appliances – which improved substantially over that time. Transportation, however, is a different story. Greenhouse gas emissions created by passenger vehicles (not including freight or off-road vehicles) rose 14.1 per cent. That increase correlates with energy use over the same period. Between 1990 and 2014, the amount of energy used by Canadian personal-car drivers went up by 18.3 per cent. Emissions rose less steeply than energy use, again because of improved technology and efficiency. Energy contributes to the high quality of life we enjoy, and the single biggest impact we can have on emissions is to find ways to reduce our day-to-day energy use. Simple things, like not idling our car and turning out the lights when we leave a room, can have a big impact. As we move into a future with lower emissions and a more diverse energy mix, CEPA members remain committed to ensuring the energy Canadians use every day is delivered in the safest and most responsible way. Learn more about the pipeline link to climate change and what we are doing about it....

Is there a pipeline near you? Learn more about transmission pipelines in Canada with the About Pipelines map

It’s important that you know where transmission pipelines are, and our interactive pipeline map shows you where they are and any incidents that may have occurred along that pipeline.Here are some of the things that you can find out if you take a few minutes to explore the map: There is a massive network of transmission pipelines in Canada, transporting the energy you use every day. Zoom out to get a wider look at how transmission pipelines are spread out across Canada, or zoom in for a close-up view of your community. See which transmission pipelines transport natural gas and which ones carry liquids, such as oil. The map also shows any incidents that have occurred along the pipeline, including the type of incident and how much product was released, if any. Not all pipeline incidents involve a release of product. CEPA members take all incidents very seriously. From slips-and-falls to small fires, CEPA members are working hard to meet their goal of zero incidents. See where pipeline facilities are. Transmission pipelines include more than just the pipe in the ground; facilities include compressor stations, gas processing plants, meter stations, pump stations, regulator stations and tank farms or terminals. See which company operates the pipeline, its age, operational status and its regulator (federal or provincial).   These “energy highways” move approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America. CEPA created the map as a user-friendly tool so all Canadians could learn more about pipeline routes. It also helps people understand the extent and importance of our energy infrastructure. The map, however, is not intended to be a resource when planning construction projects. If you are planning any sort of ground disturbance, always click before you dig, to make sure that you are not working near any underground utilities.   ...

From design to operation: How pipeline operators safely deliver energy

From design to operation: How pipeline operators safely deliver energy Canada’s 119,000 kilometres of transmission pipelines transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily production of natural gas and onshore crude oil to markets in Canada and the US – this represents the majority of oil and gas you use every day. From end to end, these pipelines are among the most highly regulated and carefully conceived and monitored forms of infrastructure in the country. When you get on a plane to head out for a vacation, you expect to take off and land safe and sound. Just like that plane ride, safely delivering energy involves coordinating many moving parts and paying attention to the smallest details. And it’s something that CEPA members take very seriously. Here are a few ways that Canada’s transmission pipeline operators work to make that energy journey as safe as possible.Planning and design At the very beginning of a pipeline project, its route is carefully planned. Experts head out to the proposed route and evaluate its path, looking for ways to minimize environmental impact, speaking with stakeholders, and keeping safety top of mind. In addition to checking the route right on the ground, these experts also use data extracted from high-resolution photos and advanced radar (LIDAR) to complete the route design. Every pipeline includes a detailed environmental plan, and there can often be as many environmental experts as engineers working on each project. Regulatory approvals The Pipeline Act of 1949 (which was in place even before seatbelts were required in cars) created the foundation for Canada’s pipelines to become the safest in the world. Pipelines are regulated based on jurisdiction, so if a pipeline crosses provincial or international borders, it’s regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB). Pipelines that operate within a province/territory fall under the provincial/territorial regulator’s authority. When considering an application for a new pipeline, regulators assess the pipeline’s proposed design, construction and operation to make sure it’s focused on safety and the environment and is in the public’s best interest. Construction Once the route and design are approved by the regulator, construction of the pipeline begins. Steel used to manufacture the pipes is exposed to high heat in a steel mill, while physical and mechanical properties are analyzed to ensure it adheres to specifications. Seams are welded and checked ultrasonically, while random samples of the steel that goes into the pipe are stretched to ensure they don’t break. Every single length of pipe is put to the test by filling them with water at high pressure — much higher than the pipe will be required to sustain in regular use. Then, because steel can rust, a blasting process cleans and etches the pipe, and a protective coating is applied. When the coating has cured, imperfections are fixed and the pipe is shipped for installation. Into the ground Pipelines are manufactured to match the contour of the land. Once the pipes are delivered to site, the sections are welded together and checked for integrity using radiography and/or ultrasound technology. The assembled pipe is then lowered into trenches, and fitted with valves at regular intervals to allow for product flow to be stopped if necessary. The trenches are then back filled and the land above is restored. You won’t see the pipeline after this point, apart from the occasional surface facilities, because they are located a metre or more beneath the ground. Pipeline right of ways need to be maintained to allow for unrestricted inspection – on the ground and in the air. Monitoring With the pipeline in place, the focus becomes monitoring and the safe operation of the pipeline. Every pipeline is monitored from high-tech control centers, where computer programs and personnel watch over the operation of the pipeline 24/7 and sound an alarm if a leak or other emergency is detected. For example, if there is a nearby forest fire, detection equipment will notify the centre if temperatures rise. The computers in the control centres read a continuous stream of data transmitted from along the pipeline, including acoustics, strain and temperature, among others. CEPA member companies are always improving their monitoring technology, and are able to track and analyze more information all the time. But that’s not all. Surveillance planes regularly fly over pipeline routes to keep an eye on the operations­­­­­. Tools called ‘smart PIGs’ — highly advanced tools that inspect pipes from the inside — are regularly sent through the pipeline to check for anomalies; they can detect possible problems years in advance. In 2016, more than 39,000 kilometres of pipeline were inspected from the inside. CEPA members also regularly conduct “integrity digs” — excavating portions of pipeline for visual inspection and maintenance. In 2016 alone, CEPA members conducted 2,696 integrity digs. Advanced technology is used in all phases of pipeline planning, building and operating. But the best protection comes from the highly trained and talented people that work for Canada’s transmission pipeline operators. They’re the ones evaluating routes, building the pipes, and keeping watch in the control rooms to make sure that the energy Canadians use every day is delivered safely and responsibly....