Updated June 2021
The AER has a responsibility to ensure that companies in Alberta develop energy resources in a safe and responsible manner. This includes holding companies accountable for their performance and driving companies to improve.
We evaluate all pipeline failures to understand the cause and to assess compliance. We analyze data on pipeline incidents to identify trends and use what we learn to educate companies during pipeline inspections and by sharing information at conferences and operator awareness sessions, and through publications such as bulletins.In Bulletin 2016-22, issued as a result of several pipeline incidents where improper leak detection was a significant contributing factor, we provided recommendations around leak detection programs for oil-well effluent and produced water pipelines. In Bulletin 2019-28, issued in response to a slight increase in the number of pipeline failures in 2019 from earth moving on unstable slopes, we reminded companies that they must consider natural hazards in their pipeline integrity management programs. The release of Bulletin 2019-28 has resulted in a number of companies proactively identifying potential earth movement problems and taking preventive actions to mitigate the risks.
Companies must have a safety and loss management system (SLMS) that protects people, the environment, and property. An SLMS includes risk management, pipeline integrity management, and operations and maintenance. Companies use risk management to identify and address hazards to their pipeline systems. Integrity management programs and operations and maintenance procedures outline the specific activities, inspections, and controls used to maintain the pipeline system.
Companies are required to develop and maintain an effective leak detection program tailored to their specific pipeline system. Such a program may include aerial or ground surveillance of the pipeline right-of-way using methods such as visual detection, gas detection, thermographic surveys, or vegetation surveys that look for signs of leaks. Other methods may include volume monitoring and pressure sensing that collect data on pressure and flow. Emergency response plans are also required in the event an emergency occurs.
We will continue to explore opportunities to improve our annual pipeline performance report, such as expanding the range of data that can be compared or broadening the information provided about incidents, including about the contributing factors.