Alberta Pipelines Suffering a Number of Leaks : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Alberta pipelines suffering number of leaks By JOHN COTTER-- The Canadian Press

EDMONTON (CP) -- Leaks and safety problems are on the rise as rust bites into Alberta's labyrinth of oil and gas pipelines, says a new provincial report.

Of pipelines inspected in 1999-2000, nearly two-thirds were declared unsatisfactory, says the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board.

Corrosion accounted for 75 per cent of the 860 inspection failures over the past year -- up 14 per cent from 1998-1999.

Despite the numbers, the board -- an independent agency that reports to the province -- says most of the problems are minor infractions Albertans need not worry about.

"Notwithstanding the continued high level of activity, the increased inventory of wells and facilities and the aging pipeline infrastructure, the inspection results continue to indicate that overall industry is doing a good job," the report says.

However, environmentalists and critics say with 277,000 kilometres of pipelines criss-crossing the province the government can't afford to be complacent if it wants to avoid spills or explosions.

Chris Severson-Baker of the Pembina Institute for Sustainable Development said the report shows not only an increase in breaks of existing pipelines. He said it also suggests that 20 per cent of new pipelines under construction aren't following safety and building rules.

"We've been lucky so far," Severson-Baker said Tuesday. "We haven't had a disaster with major consequences, but we could have in this province.

"The only way to minimize the risk of that happening is to reduce the number of failures we have."

Of the failures encountered by inspectors, 31 involved major problems including lines with too much pressure and some lines that hadn't been tested for corrosion.

The industry is also concerned about the numbers.

"We don't like the fact that eight per cent of the problems are classified as major," said Ian Scott, pipelines manager at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Severson-Baker said the problem is aggravated by the lack of full-time pipeline inspectors. Currently, the board employs just eight such experts, but assigns other staff to help them when needed.

He says the province should also bring in much tougher regulations on corrosion -- including replacing older pipelines -- to help prevent accidents before they happen.

"One of the ways we can reduce the number of failures is to replace the number of old pipelines that are in the ground," he said.

Liberal environment critic Debby Carlson said the report should spur the government to action.

She said while most companies have done a good job there is no reason why a wealthy province such as Alberta can't afford to hire more inspectors to help industry play by the rules.

"For them to say that things are not that bad isn't good enough in a province where we have pipelines next door to schools, hospitals and urban centres," said Carlson.

"I think we need to be more than diligent. The government needs to take a hard line on this issue."

The person responsible for the Alberta Energy Utilities Board -- Resource Development Minister Mike Cardinal -- was not immediately available for comment. Greg Gilbertson, a board spokesman, said the government is working with industry to come up with more stringent rules governing corrosion.

He said Albertans have nothing to worry about.

"The public should not be concerned about the safety or integrity of Alberta's pipeline systems," he said.

-- Rachel Gibson (, October 10, 2000

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