The ERCB ensures that the design, construction, operation, and maintenance—including discontinuation and abandonment of regulated pipelines—complies with Alberta’s Pipeline Act, Pipeline Regulation, and applicable Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards. The ERCB’s pipeline inspection program considers pipeline fluid characteristics, location, line size, failure history, and the company’s compliance history. Pipelines with greater potential risks are given a higher inspection priority.
The ERCB requires licensees to develop and implement integrity management programs to identify and mitigate risks associated with a particular pipeline, including corrosion mitigation and monitoring as well as other risk factors. Licensees must re-evaluate corrosion potential annually and keep records of the actions taken to ensure compliance with all regulations.
Pipelines carrying only liquid hydrocarbons must have automated leak detection systems that continuously monitor pipeline operations and alert the operator to unusual operation conditions, which allows for a rapid response at the first sign of pipeline failure.
In Alberta there are stringent and comprehensive regulations in place that assist in managing pipeline risks. Risk management involves reducing the likelihood of a pipeline failing as well as the size of a potential release. Although risk can not be completely eliminated for a pipeline, safety rates in recent years have been at their highest ever and the ERCB continues to improve that record of success. The province’s rigorous pipeline safety regulation, requirements, and safety record has garnered interest from regulators around the globe.
In Alberta, all incidents, including those in which a pipeline is damaged but does not leak, must be reported to the ERCB, regardless of volume. The pipeline failure rate for 2011 was 1.5 failures per 1,000 kilometres. This is significantly improved from 2.1 failures per 1,000 kilometres in 2008. In 2011, the ERCB conducted more than 1,700 pipeline inspections and investigations, including nearly 260 construction inspections.
In cases where the ERCB identifies noncompliance, Directive 019: Compliance Assurance provides a detailed enforcement protocol for restrictions or sanctions on a licensee’s current operations and further development. In situations where the ERCB determines the operation of a pipeline is not in compliance, it can order the pipeline shutdown until the problems are corrected.
The ERCB holds licensees responsible for incident response, which may include assistance from a number of other sources, such as government agencies or other licensees operating in the region. Licensees must follow requirements outlined in Directive 071: Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements for the Petroleum Industry, which includes having a detailed emergency response plan in place.
The ERCB also conducts comprehensive incident investigations after serious incidents occur to determine the cause of a pipeline failure and what can be done to prevent a similar situation in the future.
Noncompliance with the requirements may result in the licensee of the pipeline or duty holder receiving a response from the ERCB in accordance with the processes described in Directive 019: Compliance Assurance.
Below is additional information related to pipeline regulation in Alberta.