Energy watchdog escalates scrutiny of pipeline operators to reduce spills by Reid Southwick, March 31, 207, Calgary Herald
Alberta’s energy watchdog is escalating its scrutiny of pipeline operators with far more reviews of their ability to detect spills and prevent them from happening.
The Alberta Energy Regulator said Friday it plans to review the pipeline safety systems of roughly 20 operators each year, up from the six or so it has checked annually in the past.
The regulator said one of the factors that will help guide its decisions selecting the companies to review will be a new voluntary form asking certain operators about their pipeline safety systems and any gaps they have identified.
“We don’t look too specifically at the particular pipelines; we look at the company, so does the company give us a reason to think they don’t have or do have an adequate management system?” said David Helmer, the regulator’s director of pipelines.
According to the regulator, pipeline spills in Alberta are on a decline. The number of incidents fell by 44 per cent in the past decade, with 460 reported in 2016, a three per cent drop over the previous year.
Still, the watchdog believes every incident is preventable and wants the trend to continue, having set a goal to reduce the number of major spills by two per cent over the previous two-year average.
The energy regulator recently issued one of its largest ever fines for a pipeline spill since it was formed four years ago. Murphy Oil was fined $172,500 for a spill that went undetected for a month and a half in early 2015, dumping 1.4 million litres of condensate southeast of Peace River.
The regulator’s investigation found Murphy Oil failed to inspect its pipelines for signs of corrosion for three years, failed to perform regular maintenance on its leak detection system and failed to train workers to understand signs of a leak.
The company said it made “significant changes” to its pipeline safety systems after the major spill.
Helmer said the energy regulator wants to make sure operators across the industry are maintaining their pipelines to prevent spills and have the proper controls and training in place to ensure they can quickly detect leaks.
In mid-April, the watchdog plans to ask roughly 50 oil and gas operators to fill out a form requesting they prove that they properly maintain their pipelines and have identified risks with plans to manage them.
These 50 companies will be selected based on the level of risk in their pipeline systems, including those running larger pipeline networks and those with higher rates of incidents.
The four-page form is voluntary, though the regulator warns companies that don’t fill it out, or do a poor job, will attract suspicion about whether their pipeline safety systems are adequate.
Helmer said the purpose of the form is not to punish those who may have gaps in their systems, but to work with those operators to fill the gaps.
He noted the watchdog will also look at the company’s history of pipeline incidents, its record of complying with regulator rules and what independent inspections of the company’s infrastructure have found.
Gary Leach, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, said the regulator is taking a “prudent” step by identifying operators it believes require extra scrutiny.
“It’s a smart regulatory environment where you have overall regulatory supervision but you focus in on companies that, for whatever reason, would indicate they require greater scrutiny,” Leach said.
This is not increased scrutiny, but another flimsy, deluded PR move by the AER to convince the public they properly inspect, regulate and enforce the Pipeline Act, related directives and enactments. It’s comedic the AER is requesting voluntary disclosure by companies, when they should be in possession of all pipeline integrity information already, as it is mandated for licensing and operations.
There are hundreds of companies that operate pipelines, and likely every single one is non-compliant on certain operational aspects, particularly line inspections and maintenance, such as pigging lines, or ensuring leak detection systems are operational. The AER refuses to provide us the records that the sour gas lines around our home have been maintained or inspected. I encourage people to make similar requests, the response will shock you.
Every company must submit all pipeline maintenance records, inspections and integrity reports to the AER, and they should make this information public. [Emphasis added]
Corrosion causes half of oil, gas flowline spills by Dennis Webb, April 7, 2017, The Daily Sentinel
An audit involving oil and gas flowlines in Colorado has found that about half of the spills from such lines result from corrosion.
That means that as much as a quarter of all spills in the state reported to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission relate to flowline corrosion. Mark Schlagenhauf, engineering integrity supervisor for the commission, said flowlines account for 40 to 50 percent of all spills that energy companies report to the agency.
Flowlines are pipelines running directly from wells, typically to the point of gas metering or where tanks collect produced oil. Flowlines also may carry water associated with oil and gas development. The commission doesn’t regulate other pipelines, such as gas gathering and transportation lines moving gas farther downstream.
The commission’s newly formed Engineering Integrity Group has undertaken a flowline audit program, and since the start of 2016 it has conducted 30 audits, mostly focused on larger companies operating in the Denver Julesburg Basin, North Park, and in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin.
The audit has its roots in direction the commission received several years ago from the Legislature to develop and implement a risk-based strategy for inspections in the state. An ensuing consultant’s evaluation of 1,638 spills reported from January 2010 to August 2013 found that 78 percent occurred during production.
The Legislature then appropriated funding for the Engineering Integrity Group, which includes a supervisor, engineer and field inspector. The group has turned its initial attention to flowlines, the source of the majority of production-related spills.
The audit’s review of causes reported from September of last year through February of this year showed that 48 percent of the spills resulted from corrosion, Schlagenhauf said. He said that number is consistent with other time periods evaluated since his group’s formation in late 2015.
“There’s a lot of old metal pipe out there,” he said.
The review found that natural events like freezing accounted for about 20 percent of the other flowline spills, with the remainder resulting from excavation damage, operator error, equipment failure, and weld or joint failures.
Identifying causes can help zero in on preventative measures such as more frequent adding of corrosion inhibitors to pipes, replacing older pipes and burying lines below the freeze line underground.
The commission requires flowlines to be pressure tested before being put in service, and then annually. The auditors have reviewed more than 3,800 pressure tests, audited more than 2,800 wells and done more than 400 flowline-related inspections.
Schlagenhauf said while the audit has resulted in some notices of alleged violations, typically in response to a spill, its focus has been on helping companies improve prevention efforts.
Preventing spills, or keeping them small, can spare companies the cost of a major cleanup, he said.
As an example, Schlagenhauf said one company has seen its spill numbers drop from 20 in 2015 to about six last year and one so far this year.
Oil and gas spills dropped from more than 700 in 2014 to 509 last year, a drop that may partly be because of reduced oil and gas development levels, but the commission also thinks may be because of its audit program.
[Refer also to:
2016 07 14: Alberta averages two crude oil spills a day for decades and all the AER can do is “urge” companies to improve detection of pipeline leaks? When is AER going to “urge” Encana to fix Rosebud’s frac’d aquifers? ]