The National Energy Board (NEB) is proposing changes to three regulations1 governing construction and excavation activities around NEB-regulated pipelines, two of which have not been updated since they came into effect in 1988. For context, according to Alberta’s Energy and Resources Conservation Board, construction damage was the third most common cause of pipeline failure in 20102 and was responsible for 9% of pipeline incidents. The leading cause, at 47.3%, was internal corrosion, followed by external corrosion at 11.2% (see Table 9 of ST57- 2011: Field Surveillance and Operations Branch Provincial Summary 2010).
Although the discussion paper does not address the topics that are top of mind for many people concerned about pipeline construction – such as the impact of climate change on the structural integrity of pipelines and response times and protocols following a spill – preventing construction and excavation damage is also an important component of pipeline safety.
The NEB is currently seeking comments regarding an online Discussion Paper. The Paper makes the following proposals to ensure that anyone undertaking construction or excavation around a pipeline does so safely:
3.1 Effective and Timely Communication – Call Before You Dig
The Board proposes to require:
- pipeline companies to be members of one-call centres, in geographical areas with a centre and where the company has a pipeline, and
- anyone planning construction or excavation near a pipeline to provide notice to the pipeline company and make a locate request by contacting a one-call centre where a centre is established, or the pipeline company.
3.2 Damage Prevention Programs with Management System Approach
The Board proposes to require pipeline companies to have a damage prevention program with a management system approach. Damage prevention programs would include, among other things, ongoing monitoring of the land use where the pipeline is located and land next to the pipeline right of way; and a process to manage the movement of vehicles across the pipeline.
3.3 Safe Work Practices for Construction and Excavation
The Board proposes to clarify the requirements for third parties to: obtain a pipeline locate before construction or excavation activities, employ safe work practices stipulated by the pipeline company, follow instructions of an authorized company representative, expose the pipe in a manner that does not have potential to damage the pipe or its coating, report any contact with a pipe to the pipeline company, and cease work where safety risks exist.
3.4 Low Risk Crossing by Agricultural Vehicles
The Board proposes to revise the regulations to capture the intent of the Agricultural Crossing Order.
The Order sets the low-risk conditions for farming vehicles and equipment to cross NEB-regulated pipelines without the need for permission from the pipeline company. It requires pipeline companies to identify locations in agricultural areas where agricultural vehicle crossings would have potential to damage the pipeline, and to notify land users of those locations. For any such locations, the landowner or land user must contact the pipeline company to determine the specific crossing requirements.
1 The changes described in this paper would necessitate amendments to the National Energy Board Pipeline Crossings Regulations, Part I (PCR Part 1); National Energy Board Pipeline Crossings Regulations, Part II (PCR Part 2) and Onshore Pipeline Regulations, 1999 (OPR-99).
2 Most recent report