Gas utility pipelines in the province transport high-pressure natural gas to industrial users, to other pipeline systems, and to distribution systems, which further distribute natural gas at a lower pressure to customers in Alberta. The Commission regulates many aspects of gas utility pipelines. It approves new pipeline construction, issues licences for pipeline construction, operation, abandonment and removal, reviews and approves routing, approves rates to be paid to transport gas through the pipeline system, and establishes rules and regulations for the design, construction, operation and abandonment of gas utility pipelines.
The AUC only regulates gas utility pipelines operating within the province of Alberta. The National Energy Board regulates any pipeline that crosses provincial or international borders.
For gas distribution pipelines operated at pressures less than 700 kilopascals, approval from the AUC is not required under the Pipeline Act. The AUC does not issue licences for low-pressure distribution pipelines. Under the Gas Distribution Act, the Rural Utilities Branch of Alberta Agriculture is responsible for the setting and enforcement of all standards related to the design, construction, operation, maintenance, quality assurance, plant records, surveys and as-built drawings for rural gas utilities and low-pressure distribution pipelines. The Rural Utilities Branch aggregates licence data for low-pressure gas distributors on an annual submission basis. With respect to routing of low-pressure gas distribution lines within cities and towns, the municipality reviews the routing within public thoroughfares and determines the associated facility line assignment. The AUC provides rate regulatory oversight for low-pressure distribution pipelines and has authority to investigate issues and resolve disagreements associated with distribution matters. Ongoing safety and operation concerns on these low pressure pipelines are addressed as required by the AUC through the provisions of the Gas Utilities Act.
The AUC has a memorandum of understanding with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) for the AER to perform inspections and investigations for high-pressure gas utility pipelines owned by ATCO Pipelines and AltaGas Utilities. The AER maintains records of these tasks and reports the results to the AUC. Under the memorandum of understanding, the AER investigates incidents and makes the situation safe. After the situation is safe, subsequent investigations are conducted by the AUC. In the event of a major disastrous incident investigation by the AUC a report would be prepared with the results made publicly available.
The Commission regulates two gas utility pipelines. One is owned by ATCO Pipelines, the other by AltaGas Utilities Inc. ATCO Pipelines is part of the ATCO Ltd. group of companies and owns and operates more than 8,500 kilometres of pipeline in Alberta. AltaGas owns four natural gas transmission systems in Alberta having a cumulative length of 530 kilometres.
Neither ATCO Pipelines nor AltaGas Utilities produce the gas they transport on their systems. ATCO and AltaGas do, however, build pipelines to move high pressure gas to customers. The gas in these systems is under sufficiently high-pressure (greater than 700 kilopascals), that approval of construction and operation is required by the AUC.
The AUC requested ATCO Pipelines and AltaGas Utilities provide reports as part if its gas utility pipeline review and it continues to review risks as reported to the AUC.