Safety has been the number one priority at TransCanada for over 60 years, and it will continue to be the case with the Energy East Pipeline project. We continually work to improve and believe that every incident, however minor, can be prevented. We are committed to our goal of zero incidents.
Pipelines provide the safest, most efficient and economical means to transport crude oil over long distances and TransCanada spearheads the industry when it comes to its record for the safety and reliability of its pipeline network. Energy East will use high-quality materials and best practice techniques to ensure the delivery of crude oil to Eastern Canadian refineries and port terminals.
How safe exactly? Here are 10 important safety features we will use for Energy East.
1. Cathodic protection
During construction, a very low-voltage electric current called cathodic protection is applied to the pipeline. Cathodic protection connects protected pipeline metal to a more easily corroded piece of metal attached to the pipeline. This type of protection is used for other infrastructure such as bridges, boats and cars to prevent corrosion and rust. This system undergoes rigorous inspections every year to ensure it is operating effectively.
2. Corrosion-resistant coating
In addition to using high-strength carbon steel, our pipelines are protected with the most advanced corrosion-resistant fusion-bonded epoxy coatings that are designed specifically to meet TransCanada’s safety standards.
3. Weld inspections
Energy East will have the best-in-class quality assurance and monitoring program that includes inspecting each weld made on this pipeline with the latest ultrasonic inspection technology in addition to the more standard X-ray inspection tools to confirm its quality. We require every weld made on our pipelines to be inspected by qualified independent inspectors.
4. Shut-off valves
Energy East will be equipped with shut-off valves placed at strategic locations along the pipeline route to protect sensitive areas such as water crossings for example. They can be closed automatically to interrupt the flow of oil inside the pipeline and effectively isolate any segment of the pipeline where a drop of pressure may have been detected by the leak detection team that works from our high-tech oil control centre.
5. Horizontal Directional Drilling
This technique, sometimes called “trenchless”, allows pipeline construction to take place under areas such as rivers, steep slopes, structures, roads or railway crossings. It reduces the overall footprint of the development on the environment. Horizontal drilling allows our construction crews to bore well below the river bed without disturbing the river flow.
6. In-line inspection tools
Over the past three years, TransCanada has invested on average $900 million annually years in pipeline integrity and inspection programs. High-resolution in-line inspection tools such as smart PIGs are used to inspect the quality of the pipeline inside and out to identify even the tiniest crack, flaw or sign of corrosion. The smart PIG is propelled by flowing oil along the length of the pipeline. While travelling, its electronic sensors detect changes in the pipeline steel caused by dents, cracks or metal loss.
A well-maintained pipeline can operate indefinitely. This is why we spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year to ensure that our 70,000-kilometre network of pipelines across North America works as it should. Beyond regular in-line inspections with high-resolution tools, and a round-the-clock monitoring from our high-tech control centre in Calgary, we also carry out regular aerial patrols of the right of way and inspections by our ground teams to signal any anomaly along the pipeline.
8. Satellite monitoring and leak detection systems
The Energy East Pipeline will use our round-the-clock satellite monitoring and state-of-the-art leak-detection system. If a drop in the pipeline’s pressure is detected, the pipeline and facilities will be shut down and the area where an anomaly has been identified will be isolated by closing valves. Energy East will have sensors feeding constant and detailed information about flow rates to our control center 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The system includes a redundant, fully functional back-up computer system and a second control center in case there is a failure in the main control center.
9. Emergency Response Plans
Safety and the well-being of the communities near our operations are at the core of everything we do. This is why emergency preparedness and response plans are consistently developed. We ensure that there is sufficient response capabilities and resources in place to address potential emergencies. Energy East emergency response plans are already being developed in consultation with local responders to ensure our plans are aligned and we understand each other’s roles and responsibilities.
10. Our People, Our Culture
The most important component of our safety and maintenance programs is our people. All of our control centre, integrity and maintenance personnel receive intensive training for up to a year before they can be certified to work on pipeline operations and maintenance. Control centre operators and maintenance personnel performing pipeline safety related tasks are regularly re-certified to ensure they remain current in their training and that they continue to receive leading-edge education in pipeline operations, maintenance and leak detection. This another reason why we are confident that Energy East will safely deliver the oil millions of Canadians need.