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Vol. 15, No. 33 Week of August 15, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Alberta pipe failures at record low

Alberta posted a record low failure rate for energy pipelines in 2009 while the government’s energy regulator set a new high mark for field inspections and audits.

In its 68-page annual report, the Energy Resources Conservation Board also estimated the industry achieved a record level of 98.6 percent compliance with its regulations, compared with 98 percent in 2008.

At a time when government, industry and public concern about the safety of energy facilities is probably at its most intense, the Alberta regulator had the satisfaction of calculating pipeline failures at 1.76 for every 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), beating the previous lows of 2.1 in both 2008 and 2009.

A total of 27 ruptures were recorded last year, compared with 39 in 2008.

All pipeline failures are inspected or an investigation is conducted.

For last year, ERCB staff conducted 329 inspections and investigated 405 incidents. As a result, it reported 647 operations were in compliance with its requirements, 36 were deemed low-risk non-compliant and 51 were rated high-risk non-compliant.

Internal corrosion accounted for 44.3 percent of failures in metallic pipelines, the bulk of them in smaller-diameter gathering lines.

The ERCB suspended operations at 127 energy facilities, pipelines and operations that did not meet its requirements.

It handled 643 complaints, down 101 from 2008 and responded to 100 percent of them. The report said 23 blowouts occurred at 246,156 non-abandoned wells, for a rate of 0.149 for every 1,000 wells.

ERCB Chairman Dan McFadyen said 2009 was a “very good year in terms of industry compliance with our stringent regulatory standards.”

ERCB staff carried out a total of 25,373 field inspections and audits last year compared with 18,667 in 2008.

The ERCB regulates 160,000 operating oil and gas wells, 33,700 oil and gas batteries, plants and other facilities, 392,000 kilometers of pipelines and 38 commercial oil sands plants.

—Gary Park



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