Why do spills keep happening?

Emergencies are a rare occurrence for Canada’s pipelines. In fact, from 2011 to 2015, CEPA members have a 99.999% safety record. But that .001% is our focus – that number needs to be zero. Zero spills.

So what is causing the .001%? The majority of incidents (over 82%) from 2011 to 2015 are caused by three things:

  • metal loss, which means reduction in the thickness of a pipe due to corrosion, erosion or other causes
  • materials, manufacturing or construction defects
  • cracking

How serious are these spills?

From 2011 to 2015, the number of significant pipeline failure incidents across 119,000 kilometres of pipeline in Canada was 4.2 per year.

To differentiate higher-risk incidents, CEPA has adopted a set of criteria that defines significant incidents. A significant incident would include one or more of the following:

  • Caused a serious injury or fatality
  • Caused a liquid release of greater than eight cubic metres (50 barrels)
  • Produced an unintentional ignition or fire
  • Resulted in a rupture of a pipeline

The majority of the liquids pipeline incidents between 2011 and 2015 were small in volume (less than 8 cubic metres or 50 barrels). The single largest, which occurred in 2011, accounted for more than 70 per cent of the total volume spilled, and the three largest incidents accounted for more than 80 per cent of the five-year total.

So what are you doing to prevent spills in the future?

Everything we possibly can. CEPA’s 12 member companies pool their knowledge and expertise to honour their commitment to transport the energy Canadians count on in the safest, most responsible way possible. The industry is focused on getting to zero incidents through continuous improvement in key areas, including pipeline materials, design, construction, operation and monitoring.

Developing the most advanced pipe
Canada has some of the world’s leading pipeline experts. The Canadian Pipeline Technology Collaborative (CPTC) puts all this brainpower to work, uniting governments, pipeline operators, scientists, university researchers and manufacturers to develop innovations that will boost pipeline safety.

The extraordinary talent across Canada plays a critical role in developing new ideas and approaches.” Richard Wayken, CEO of the CPTC.

Protecting the pipe
The thick steel of a pipe is protected by advanced coatings to prevent corrosion. Through a process called polar bonding, molecules in the steel bond to corresponding molecules in the coating. The excellent adhesion of the pipeline coating delivers superior protection for the life of the pipeline.

“Every surface coated is inspected multiple times before being buried,” explained Matt Alliston, Canadian vice president of domestic markets with Specialty Polymer Coatings, a company that makes high-performance coatings for pipelines, marine vessels and other industrial projects.

Monitoring closely

CEPA members monitor their pipelines 24/7 from control centres, which are the hub of pipeline operations. These control centres use remote monitoring and control systems called SCADA systems (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) to collect information from sensors installed along the pipeline route that monitor flow, temperature and pressure. The line is also watched by ground and air patrols, as well as cameras and imagers.

If anything occurs, technicians can quickly stop the flow with block valves strategically located along the pipeline.

Inspecting with advanced technology

Some of the most advanced technology in medical science is put to use in inspecting pipelines – the arteries of Canada’s economy. Phased array ultrasonic testing (PAUT) gives operators the ability to examine welds in 3D. Torpedo-like devices called smart pigs travel inside a pipeline using ultrasonic technology to measure pipe thickness and metal loss.

Defects can be detected earlier and fixed before they become problems.

Sharing expertise among CEPA members

Individually, CEPA members have extensive pipeline expertise. And by combining their knowledge and experience through CEPA Integrity First, CEPA members are collectively advancing their operations and practices. By sharing their expertise with each other, CEPA members are accelerating the development of safety and environmental protection for the benefit of all Canadians.

CEPA Integrity First is an industry-led program that’s enabling pipeline companies to continuously improve their pipeline operations and practices – with a goal of zero incidents.

Sharing expertise with the entire industry

The CEPA Foundation brings together the entire pipeline industry including engineers, designers, constructors, manufacturers, pipeline maintenance, legal, land and environmental service companies, and everything in between. By working together, the CEPA Foundation is developing solutions to improve safety, reliability and environmental protection.

For instance, the CEPA Foundation, along with the INGAA Foundation, have developed and are publishing a Pipeline Inspector Certification program for adoption by their member companies. The certification program is part of the continuous improvement process to enhance the operational reliability of pipelines. By standardizing the baseline certification of pipeline inspectors across the industry, overall quality improves.

CEPA Foundation engages every single stakeholder in the pipeline industry to boost safety performance.

Preventing damage by the public

Damage by excavation or construction activities is a preventable cause of pipeline incidents. That’s why pipelines are clearly marked, and in many provinces, the law states that before any excavation, you must Call/Click Before You Dig. This free service is provided by operators of underground infrastructure and the government. Pipeline technicians will come to the site and clearly mark where pipelines are buried and provide instruction on how to safely excavate near these areas.

Call/Click Before You Dig prevents incidents from damage by third parties.

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