As part of the conversion of a 3,000-kilometre section of the Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline system for oil transportation, the Energy East team will replace three existing river crossings – the Assiniboine River in Manitoba, the Madawaska River and the Rideau River in Ontario.
We understand that when people hear that we are replacing segments of pipe, their first instinct may be to think that it is because they’re not safe, when in fact it’s the opposite.
These three river crossings currently have a 36-inch diameter and we’ll be replacing them with 42-inch pipe sections.
“There are no integrity issues with these crossings,” says Tammy, Manager of the Energy East Conversion project at TransCanada. “We want to install 42-inch pipe so that we have a 42-inch pipe end to end (from Alberta to New Brunswick), which will allow us to inspect the line in operations.”
Easier access for pipeline inspection tools
So increasing the diameter of the pipe at these three river crossings will allow easier access for inline inspection tools, also called Smart Pipeline Inspection Gauges (Smart PIGs). These devices are regularly launched inside the pipe to inspect the condition of the pipe steel’s inner wall, mid wall, outer wall and coating type.
Smart PIGs, which engineers say make pig-like squeals when zipping through pipes, are propelled by flowing oil along the length of the pipeline. While travelling, sensors detect any changes in the pipeline steel caused by dents, cracks or metal loss. This is how the PIG identifies and measures, on a millimetre-by millimetre basis, any defect type, size and location, and relays data to pipeline integrity experts.
This is just one of the steps we take to ensure the safe and reliable operation of our pipelines.
There are many more additional safety measures. For river crossings for example, our protective design features include heavy-walled pipe and burying the pipe deep in the ground. At large river crossings, it also entails the strategic placement of valves that can be quickly shut down from our Oil Control Centre in Calgary should our leak detection team – who work around the clock, 365 days a year – receive satellite-transmitted data showing an anomaly such as a drop in pressure inside the pipeline.
TransCanada is a leader in developing and deploying cutting-edge pipeline technology. This is why we invest almost a billion dollars each year in our inspection and maintenance programs. It’s about enhancing the safety, not just making it safe. We plan to continue spending a lot of money in this critical area to meet our goal of zero incident along our 70,000-kilometre pipeline network across North America.