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Calgary, Alberta (May 17, 2011)… The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) has directed Plains Midstream Canada (Plains) to undertake investigations prior to considering approval to resume operations of the NPS 20 Rainbow Pipeline. The decision follows an April 29, 2011 pipeline leak that released about 28,000 barrels of light, sweet crude oil.
The ERCB has completed thorough reviews of technical information supplied by Plains but is not yet prepared to authorize returning the pipeline to operation.
The ERCB needs to ensure that all contributing factors to the failure that occurred on April 29th have been thoroughly addressed. To date, the company has identified three contributing factors – the presence of a stress riser, differential soil settlement, and excessive stress at the bottom of the pipe. As a result, the ERCB has required Plains to expedite a dig program to examine other sections of the line to determine the integrity of the pipeline.
Further investigation is also being required as a result of a self-disclosure on May 13 by Plains of what appeared to be a small crack near a weld-on sleeve found about 25 kilometres downstream from the original failure point during a routine inspection. Routine maintenance activities such as this are an integral part of ensuring the integrity of the pipeline. No evidence of leakage was found and steps have been taken to repair the section of pipeline. However, as a result of this finding, Plains has been directed to submit a plan for sampling of other similar sites.
While the ERCB recognizes there are many people affected by delays in pipeline operations, the ERCB will only consider approving the resumption of operations when it is confident the line can be safely returned to operation and operate within all regulatory requirements.
The ERCB will continue to work closely with Plains and provide regulatory oversight as the direction is carried out. An official investigation into the failure is still ongoing.
Clean up operations are on hold due to wildfires in the area and will continue when deemed safe to return to the site. To date, more than 10,500 barrels of light sweet crude oil have been recovered. The spill continues to be completely contained.
The pipeline failure rate in Alberta continues to decline. In 2009, and again in 2010, Alberta’s pipeline industry set a record-low pipeline failure rate of 1.7 per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline, following record-low rates of 2.1 in both 2008 and 2007.
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For more information, please contact:Darin Barter, ERCB Communications