Canada is home to over 8,500 rivers and two million lakes, so to safely deliver the energy Canadians need, CEPA members combine safety, engineering and environmental expertise to operate pipelines through waterways and near aquifers. CEPA members protect the waterway and surrounding habitats and environment at each stage of the pipeline life cycle – from planning and construction to operations, maintenance and retirement.
Biologists, environmentalists and other experts carefully study the proposed pipeline routes, often over many seasons, to choose the safest place for the pipeline to cross. They look at ways to minimize the pipeline’s impact by analyzing many factors, including bank stability and the presence of wildlife, vegetation and fish habitat.
When building a pipeline across a waterway, operators will always choose the safest method possible, based on careful analysis of bank stability, wildlife, vegetation, and fish habitat – all in accordance with industry leading standards and government regulations. For example, if environmental conditions allow it, the operator may use a trenchless method, which has less impact on the waterway. The operator drills a path underneath the river and threads the pipeline through.
Other preferred water crossing options include using the isolated trench technique, where the water is diverted around the excavation, or waiting until the waterway is dry or frozen before excavating. Traditional trenching methods are only used when other crossing methods are not feasible.
Careful construction techniques and procedures are used to protect every kilometer of pipe.
The industry uses pipes specifically designed for waterways and near aquifers. The walls of the pipe may be thicker and the pipe is covered with corrosion-resistant material. The sections are welded at 3100 degrees Celsius, fusing them together. If there is a strong current or deep water, cables, bolts and weights may be installed as extra stability for the pipeline. Both during and after construction, the pipe is continuously checked for quality control.
Pipeline operators monitor the banks and slopes at crossings to make sure they remain stable, and 24/7 monitoring systems keep a close watch on the flow of product in the pipeline. If there are changes, alarms will alert the operator.
Pipelines crossing major bodies of water, like lakes, are equipped with block valves at both sides of the crossing that can close quickly to stop product flow.
Operators minimize disruption during construction, and then restore the land after the pipeline is installed, including activities like replacing the soil and restoring the vegetation on the shoreline. Water crossings are monitored by environmental experts on the ground, as well by aerial patrols, to ensure the reclamation process has been successful for plants and wildlife habitat.
Regulatory conditions require up to five years of post-construction monitoring. If there are any issues, the operator will take action to correct the issue until the reclamation is successful. The right-of-way will then be monitored by environmental specialists to ensure continued care of the environment and protection of the pipeline.
CEPA is producing the edition of its comprehensive guidelines for constructing transmission pipelines across bodies of water in collaboration with over 100 biologists, engineers, government officials and other experts. In addition, CEPA members also use best practices for maintenance and repairs on pipelines that cross waterways. These guidelines ensure CEPA members are using up-to-date procedures for crossing bodies of water.
When incidents happen, emergency management plans help operators act quickly and efficiently. They provide a comprehensive guide for handling the emergency.