Dedicated professionals across the country – from engineers to environmental experts – work together to deliver the energy you need while protecting the environment. In this section, we report on the year’s performance and our ongoing initiatives in the area of environmental protection.

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In 2016, CEPA members invested $1.2 billion in maintaining and monitoring their Canadian pipeline systems.

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In 2016, our members conducted in-line inspection runs on 39,059 kilometres of pipelines in Canada using highly sophisticated tools called ‘smart pigs’ that examine a pipeline from the inside to identify features such as metal loss, dents and cracks that may require further investigation. More than 30 per cent of our members’ 119,000 kilometres of pipeline in Canada were inspected by one or more in-line inspection tools in 2016.

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In 2016, our members invested $22.8 million in innovative technology focused on reducing pipeline corrosion and improving pipeline inspection, leak detection and damage prevention. During the three-year period 2014-2016 our member’s investment in these kinds of technologies totaled more than $60 million.

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In 2016, CEPA member companies conducted 2,696 integrity digs to examine pipelines for defects and to make repairs - that’s a total of 25,577 integrity digs since 2007.

The number of integrity digs in any given year is not a set number. Each company decides when and where to perform an integrity dig, based on the results of in-line inspections and according to the Operations and Management Program. During an integrity dig, a section of pipeline is excavated to give pipeline operators an up-close view of the pipeline to determine if a repair or replacement is required.

Woodland caribou protection a high priority for pipeline operators

Caribou is one of the boreal forest species most sensitive and vulnerable to changes in land use. Wolves are their primary predators, and linear disturbances like roads, pipelines and seismic lines have opened up access for those predators.

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Over time, this has resulted in large declines in the Canadian caribou population. A number of biologists believe some caribou herds are so small that even one death can have a devastating effect on the remaining population, especially if that caribou is a female or young.

For these reasons, the National Energy Board (NEB) has a goal to protect Canada’s woodland caribou from destruction of their habitats, fragmentation to the landscape, and the growing cumulative effects of human disturbance on the boreal ecosystem.

In May 2016 at the 16th North American Caribou Workshop held in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the NEB clarified the conditions that pipeline operators must meet to avoid, minimize, restore and offset the effects of development projects on caribou habitat.

The conditions hold pipeline operators accountable for supporting an objective of ‘no net loss to caribou habitat’, with a strict requirement for operators to have comprehensive offset plans for any areas that cannot be fully restored.

That’s why CEPA members work closely with wildlife biologists who have deep knowledge of caribou ecology and habitat restoration techniques. Together, they develop plans to mitigate, restore, offset and monitor the effects of pipeline construction and operation on caribou.

The ecology of caribou herds can be complex and unpredictable. For example, some pregnant females return to their favourite calving sites year after year, despite what changes may have occurred in the area. This habitual behaviour can put caribou at risk, especially if predators have moved into the disturbed areas.

Some of the mitigation measures the pipeline industry has in place include:

  • Timing restrictions for construction to avoid high-risk periods, such as calving and migration
  • Access controls to deter humans and predators from travelling along the right-of-way (ROW)
  • Line-of-sight measures, such as planting tall trees, or installing fences or berms, to limit visibility along the ROW
  • Spreading woody debris along the ROW to slow the rate of wolf movement
  • Planting native vegetation that will restore the ecosystem and not attract deer or moose, which can cause a chain reaction by attracting wolves

Pipeline operators monitor and report on the effectiveness of their plans, including detailing the adaptive management measures they will use if the intended objectives are not met.

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New guidelines to reduce methane emissions

Methane, the main component of natural gas, can sometimes be released through compressor stations that move natural gas through the pipeline. It also can be released through day-to-day, operations, maintenance activities and leaks and damage incidents.

Methane has a global warming potential that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which is why CEPA members who operate natural gas pipelines are working to reduce their methane emissions. In fact, for several years, CEPA’s Climate Change Work Group has focused on initiatives that will reduce these methane emissions across the pipeline industry.

In September 2016, the work group released a best management practice, Fugitive Emissions at Natural Gas Transmission and Storage Facilities, to provide an industry best practice including innovations and insights on how to mitigate and reduce fugitive leaks at natural gas transmission and storage facilities. Natural gas transmission pipelines and related facilities, including underground and liquefied natural gas storage operated by the pipeline companies, are responsible for 1.5 per cent of Canada’s total methane emissions, and this guide is intended to reduce those emissions even further.

The best practice document is a continuation of a project that began in 2010 with the Canadian Energy Partnership for Environmental Innovation. The initial project focused on potential sources of fugitive methane emissions from above-ground facilities along natural gas pipeline systems. The information from that program formed the basis of the current best management practice.

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Refining practices and innovations to continue to protect Canada’s waterways

According to Environment Canada, Canada is home to over 8,500 rivers and two million lakes. So to safely deliver the energy Canadians need, CEPA members combine safety, engineering and environmental expertise to operate pipelines safely through waterways and near aquifers.

In 2016, revisions to the federal Fisheries Act placed new emphasis on the prevention of serious harm to fish and the sustainability and productivity of commercial, recreational and Indigenous fisheries.

CEPA, along with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Canadian Gas Association, are working together to update the Pipeline Associated Watercourse Crossing practices document to reflect the new revisions.

These science-based guidelines help pipeline operators improve their understanding and share knowledge of how best to design and build a pipeline around water and ensure construction has minimal impact on the environment, particularly fisheries.

With input from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, pipeline regulators, biologists, engineers and other experts, these guidelines analyze the variety of factors that companies must consider for watercourse crossings, and suggest the best possible action. The guidelines also include tools for improved self-assessment processes and technical information.

Released later in 2017, this document will be the fifth edition, reflecting the latest improvements, innovations and best practices for watercourse crossings.

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Member initiative: TransCanada finds new environmental purpose for mobile compressors

Innovation is not always about creating something new. Sometimes innovation comes from finding different ways to gain value from existing technology. A perfect example is the pulldown compressor station – a TransCanada invention dating back to the 1970s.

The initial purpose of these mobile compressors was to avoid the cost of releasing gas to the atmosphere during pipeline maintenance.

Today, TransCanada also uses them to manage greenhouse (GHG) gas emissions.

Pulldown compressors are transported by trucks to areas across Canada where natural gas pipelines are being shut down for planned maintenance. The gas, which is primarily methane, is diverted from the pipeline to the mobile compressor stations where it is compressed. The mobile compressor stations can divert up to 80 per cent of natural gas in the pipeline.

TransCanada estimates that, in 2016, it avoided releasing more than one million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through its Canadian pipeline operations by using these pulldown compressor stations. The company also recorded cost savings of more than $8 million.

The current fleet consists of eight pulldown compressors. Some are currently being refurbished, and a ninth compressor is in the design phase. Eventually the full fleet of mobile compressors will be put into service during planned maintenance.

Pulldown compressor stations are a win-win-win for TransCanada. They help to minimize the company’s environmental footprint, improve the quality of pipeline maintenance and contribute to the overall integrity of the TransCanada pipeline system. And they result in cost savings.

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Member initiative: Eyeing new technology for leak detection at facilities

What do hospitals, airports, speed skating ovals and transmission pipelines have in common? They can all use high-tech, real-time video analytic applications to alert them to potential failures in the system.

CEPA member, TransCanada, tested the capabilities of this type of technology by using IntelliView Technologies’ patented video analytics technology at a pump station. The year-long trial was intended to see if this technology would be an effective tool in TransCanada’s overall leak detection program. The trial took place on the Keystone Pipeline System and wrapped up in October 2016.

IntelliView’s thermal / visual imaging sensors and leak analysis software are designed to measure temperature, size, speed, shape of flow and colour. These technologies are used to quickly identify and analyze variances on the above-ground pipeline, and alert the monitoring stations to any anomalies that might signal a leak. The software sends data, detailed photographs, and videos of the leak location. The entire process takes approximately 30 seconds.

Over the course of the trial, four tests were conducted at different times of the year, under varying conditions for above-ground facilities. The results showed that the speed and sensitivity of the technology was beneficial to TransCanada’s leak detection systems and, through the testing program, noticed improvements such as a decrease in false alarm rates.

The reduction in false alarms is especially noteworthy because the company must investigate every alarm that comes in. False alarms can have substantial manpower and performance impacts.

TransCanada’s leak detection team has now completed the evaluation, and the company feels the technology has potential for complementing their already robust leak detection system for above-ground facilities.

Based on proven technologies and industry standards for long distance, large diameter liquid pipelines, TransCanada’s leak detection strategy incorporates overlapping methodologies to detect any leaks on TransCanada’s pipelines. The company’s Oil Control Centre operates around the clock using computerized leak detection systems as well as a sophisticated Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to monitor for leaks in real-time. To supplement real-time systems, non-real-time methods are also used to inspect, monitor and protect TransCanada’s pipelines. These multiple layers of protection, designed to detect all leaks, include:

  • Aerial patrols
  • Ground patrols and site inspections
  • In-line inspections
  • 24/7 real-time monitoring by competent and qualified pipeline and leak detection controllers using Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA)
  • A Public Awareness Program that provides regular training with first responders and others, such as landowners, in regions where TransCanada operates to recognize and report unusual conditions
  • Highly-trained operators who have consistently shown that they are able to notice very small changes that could be related to a leak and shut the pipeline down within minutes

As part of its extensive research and development program, TransCanada routinely assesses and tests new technologies that might enhance their existing system. The real-time video analytics technology trial was partly funded through an award to IntelliView by Alberta Innovates.

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Keeping pipeline watercourse crossings safe from geohazards

Geohazards are potential threats to pipelines from environmental forces such as floods, landslides, settlement/subsidence, erosion and seismic activity.

In 2015, CEPA’s Geohazards Management Users Group began a multi-year initiative to test advanced technology to protect pipelines that cross bodies of water from these threats. One example is an acoustic monitoring system that can detect when underground pipelines have become exposed.

Phase three of this initiative began in 2016. Spectra Energy (now acquired by Enbridge Pipelines) successfully trialed an acoustic tool for monitoring a pipeline exposure at a Coquihalla River crossing in British Columbia. Later in 2017, Kinder Morgan Canada will explore the use of temperature monitoring equipment called river scour detection monitoring at their Crooked Creek pipeline crossings. The outcomes of these trials will inform what and how new technologies are adopted to protect watercourse crossings.

By developing new detection methods to help protect watercourse crossings, CEPA members are continuously improving the safe transportation of the energy Canadians need.

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Member initiative: Enbridge wins global award for innovation in preventing slope movement

As part of their Southern Manitoba Slope Remediation Project, CEPA member, Enbridge, used emerging technologies to mitigate the threat of slope movement on their Mainline pipeline.

The result was a safer pipeline – and a Global Pipeline Award.

In September 2016, Enbridge won this prestigious award, which acknowledges the most outstanding innovations and technological advancements in the field of pipeline transportation. The award – presented by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – also recognized Enbridge’s initiative to further develop the technologies they used in the project, and to openly communicate the results.

The Southern Manitoba Slope Remediation Project focused on an area in southern Manitoba where Enbridge’s Mainline pipeline network travels through a slope that is approximately 24 metres high and 85 metres long. Instrumentation results from 2011 had detected a slope movement issue on the right-of-way, which houses five crude oil transmission lines.

Enbridge evaluated the site by reviewing monitoring results from a variety of sources, including geotechnical site inspections and aerial photography and creating a computerized modeling system that considered the interaction between the soil and pipelines to evaluate the potential stress caused by slope movements.

They also implemented a full-scale mitigation project that included steps to minimize future stress on the lines. Read the full story here.

This is the third time a CEPA member has won the prestigious Global Pipeline Award in the last 11 years.

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Member initiative: Enbridge sees a sustainable energy future that blends new and existing infrastructure

Since the early 2000s, Enbridge has been focused on how to use existing assets to deliver sustainable energy. That work continued to advance in 2016, reinforced by climate change legislation, which is creating positive conditions for renewable energy.

As a leader in renewable energy, Enbridge is building momentum on initiatives like power-to-gas technology and renewable natural gas, with a goal of implementation in 2017.

Power-to-gas technology
Enbridge has been actively developing its expertise on power-to-gas technology to help integrate natural gas and electricity infrastructure, which will enable the storage of low-carbon electricity. The company is building North America’s first utility-scale power-to-gas facility, which will be commissioned later this year.

Power-to-gas technology converts surplus renewable electricity into hydrogen, which can be stored. When the market demand for energy increases, this stored energy can be delivered back to consumers as renewable electricity or blended with natural gas and injected into the existing natural gas distribution network and transmission pipelines.

Renewable natural gas
Renewable natural gas is harvested from organic waste and biomass to help reduce emissions and divert landfill waste. When organic waste decomposes, it releases a mixture of gases, including methane. By capturing and cleaning this gas, it becomes renewable natural gas, which can be transported in existing pipelines to fuel trucks and to power homes.

Enbridge has already engaged with some municipalities about the potential to supply renewable natural gas for garbage trucks, once regulations are in place. Natural gas could fuel large trucks at up to 40 per cent less the cost than diesel, with 15 per cent lower emissions. Over the medium and long-term, renewable natural gas could fuel these same vehicles as a way to achieve zero emissions in heavy-duty trucking fleets.

On the regulatory front, the Ontario Energy Board recently announced a Technical Working Group to assess Enbridge’s gas supply plans. The assessment will include the company’s strategies to add renewable natural gas as a potential fuel source to reduce GHG emissions. Consultations are underway in 2017.

A range of renewable projects
Enbridge has a number of other renewable projects in place across Canada, including wind farms, solar energy operations, waste heat recovery facilities, a geothermal project and a hydroelectric facility.

Together, Enbridge’s renewable projects represent more than 3,800 megawatts (net) of green power capacity. That’s enough to power about 1,668,800 homes, based on gross generation figures – through projects either in operation, planned or under construction.

Enbridge takes a balanced view of sustainable energy, with the awareness that stranding existing infrastructure in favour of renewables is an expensive solution. The company’s leadership team envisions a future where the work they’re doing would enable consumers to choose fuels, based on cost and demand.

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