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Wednesday, 18 September 2013 13:42

Pipeline safety needs enforcement of regulations

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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A recently-completed review of pipeline safety in Alberta has resulted in more questions than answers, but in Saskatchewan, the government is also still working on finding answers to a provincial audit of pipeline safety.


After a number of pipeline spills, the Alberta government directed the Alberta Energy Regulator in July 2012 to carry out a third-party pipeline safety review, which was carried out by the Calgary-based engineering services company Group 10 Engineering Ltd.
The completed report was submitted to the provincial government in December 2012, but only made public in August 2013 to an almost immediate negative response from opposition parties and environmental groups.
Group 10 Engineering’s approach was to compare the regulatory requirements and framework in Alberta to that of other jurisdictions in Canada, including Saskatchewan, and other countries.
It assessed the contribution of current industry best practices towards safety and pipeline licensees were asked if pipelines in Alberta were safely operated and effectively regulated.
The report found Alberta has the best overall regulatory regime of all assessed Canadian jurisdictions. The study favours a progressive (tiered) regulatory approach with semi-prescriptive or prescriptive regulation to accommodate the industry’s goal to be competitive in business.
Critics of the study felt it did not ask the right questions to determine actual compliance and enforcement of regulations. Another criticism was the lack of consultation with groups outside the industry.
These concerns resulted in calls from the opposition Wildrose Party and NDP for an independent review of pipeline safety. Last week Alberta’s auditor general announced an upcoming audit of pipeline safety.
In Saskatchewan the results of a review by the provincial auditor on the regulation of pipelines were released in June 2012It indicated the Ministry of Economy (formerly Energy and Resources) did not have appropriate measures in place to ensure compliance with relevant pipeline regulations.
At the time of the report the Ministry was regulating 23,500 kilometres of pipelines in Saskatchewan. One quarter of all licensed pipelines in the province are older than 40 years. The Ministry is also responsible for about 68,000 flowlines, which are smaller and shorter pipelines that connect wellheads to storage or other facilities. An additional 3,000 to 4,000 flowlines are built annually.
Spills from these lines will have a similar environmental risk as from any other pipeline, but the audit noted that flowlines were not licensed under the Pipelines Act, 1998 while these lines have been regulated by the Government of Alberta for many years.
The Saskatchewan government has implemented some changes in response to the auditor’s report, but it is still working on dealing with the more complex recommendations such as an approach to properly license and regulate flowlines.
The auditor’s report noted there has been no significant spills in Saskatchewan in recent years but the number of pipelines spills have increased slightly over the previous four year.
In Alberta, there is a lack of confidence in the regulatory oversight of pipelines. It is a situation that can only be avoided in Saskatchewan if improvements to the regulatory standards for pipelines and increased enforcement of these standards are priorities for the provincial government.
Matthew Liebenberg is a reporter with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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