CALGARY – A long-awaited review into pipeline safety in Alberta has found that oversight in the province is strong and compares favourably overall with other jurisdictions, but includes 17 recommendations to further improve it.
The review, conducted by Group 10 Engineering, looked at pipeline integrity, the safety of pipelines crossing water and spill response.
Among the recommendations, Group 10 said regulators should better define what constitutes a “water body” and improve consistency amongst regulators both within Alberta and across Canada.
Industry players were consulted in the creation of the report, but not environmental organizations and other public interest groups. An Alberta Energy Regulator official said in a technical briefing with reporters that the Group 10 work cost $455,000.
The Alberta government commissioned the report last summer after a spate of oil spills, including a 475,000-litre leak from a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline in Central Alberta last spring.
Group 10 submitted its work to Energy Minister Ken Hughes last December, and the regulator submitted its response in March. For months, opposition politicians and other critics have been urging Hughes to make the results of the study public.
“This review assures Albertans we have a safe system in place, but it’s important that we not rest on our laurels,” Hughes said in a release Friday.
“As leaders in energy production and regulation, we will make every effort to ensure Alberta’s pipeline safety standards continue to be among the best in the world.”
Hughes has also asked the Alberta Energy Regulator to lead the development of a management system to make sure operators are using “leading edge” technology to respond to spills.
Hughes announced the review following three separate oil spills last year, including the leak of up to 475,000 litres of crude into the rain-swollen Red Deer River near Sundre, Alta., in June of 2012.
A pipeline owned by the same company, Plains Midstream Canada, spilled 4.5 million litres of oil in northwestern Alberta in April 2011. Earlier this year, the province slapped Plains with environmental charges in relation to that event.
And the pipeline spills continued in the spring of this year. An estimated 9.5 million litres of waste water leaked in northwestern Alberta from a pipeline owned by U.S. company Apache Corp.
As well, a Penn West (TSX:PWT) pipeline spilled 5,000 litres of crude and up to 600,000 litres of wastewater. And an Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) pipeline near Fort McMurray, Alta., spilled about 200,000 litres.
Alberta has been pushing for new pipelines to be built in order to expand the market reach of the province’s crude, such as TransCanada Corp.’s (TSX:TRP) Keystone XL pipeline in the United States and Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast.
With environmental opposition threatening those controversial proposals, the province, the federal government and industry players have been seeking to assure the public that crude can be transported safely through pipelines.