Are We To Blame For The Pipeline Issue Lately?

According to federal data, humans are to blame for the reason pipeline leaks. Apparently, it is due to the incompetency of workers that their are leaks; some pipes are not being deep and bolts and not being fastened properly. The leaks per year average at 20 over the past three years and all could be prevented.

“It’s both probably one of the most difficult things for an organization to deal with, but also the most important,” said Mark Fleming, a professor of safety culture at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

Prof. Fleming said that operators have made improvements in safety practices, but to achieve the higher levels of safety required by other industries such as the airline or nuclear power sectors would require extreme attention to detail.

“It’s like a ball balancing on the top of a pyramid. Safety, particularly very high levels of safety, requires constant attention and effort. And the tendency is for it to degrade.” he said.

Pipelines installed in America within the past five years have the highest rate of failure of any one built circa 1920.

According to the executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, Carl Weimer, humans are partially to blame.

“A lot of new pipelines being put in the ground just aren’t being installed right, or things don’t get tightened up quite enough, so within the first year or two things fail,” said Weimer.

Due to these errors, we have seen oil streaming into rivers and damaging entire ecosystems. Companies are also slacking on inspections of pipelines. One example of such negligence is Plains Midstream Canada which was found by Alberta Energy Regulator to be such.

Due to the company’s disregard for safety in 2011, there was a 4.5M litre of oil in the Peace River followed by an additional 463,00 L of oil in the Red Deer River a year after the previous accident.

Two years ago, a Nexen Energy pipeline south of Fort McMurray, Alta. burst. This allowed 5 million litres of emulsion including about 1.65 million litres of oil near its Long Lake oilsands operation. There is still an ongoing investigation into the incident but Nexen’s says that the pipeline design was incompatible with the ground conditions, and wasn’t installed properly. If that is the case, one would ask, “then why was it installed in the first place?”.

“There’s been a lot of learnings in our industry that have resulted from some very unfortunate incidents,” said Patrick Smyth, vice-president of safety and engineering at the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. 


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