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AUC review of gas utility pipeline integrity management and emergency response plan manuals

Background

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, 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 less than 700 kilopascals of pressure, approval from the AUC is not required under the Pipeline Act. 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 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.

AUC review

In order to satisfy itself that gas utility pipelines have appropriate documentation of procedures to monitor pipeline integrity and to respond to a potential emergency incident, the Commission is examining the relevant procedure manuals for the gas utility pipelines it regulates in Alberta. This examination will assist in the process to ensure safe and reliable pipeline facilities in Alberta, considering the economic, social and environmental effects. This examination was further referenced in Decision 2014-010 ATCO Pipelines Urban Pipeline Replacement Project where the Commission stated that a consultant had been engaged by the Commission to verify that policies, methods and procedures are in place to manage pipeline integrity on the ATCO Pipelines system. In that decision, the Commission indicated that the results of that review would be shared and that the Commission would deal with any issues that might arise.

The AUC requested AltaGas Utilities Inc. and ATCO Pipelines, under the authority of the Pipeline Regulation, sections 7 and 8, to file copies of their manuals relating to pipeline integrity management and emergency response plans. An independent consultant was engaged by the AUC to review the content of the manuals against the criteria established in the relevant standards and legislation. The consultant’s reviews and the utilities’ response to those reviews are provided below.

 

 AltaGas Utilities Inc.  ATCO Pipelines
Integrity management review  Integrity management review
Emergency response review  Emergency response review
May 15, 2013 response  May 16, 2013 response
May 30, 2013 response  June 28, 2013 response
November 1, 2013 response
April 1, 2014 AUC letter
Emergency Management Guide and Emergency Management Plan (March 31, 2014)
June 12, 2014 response
June 12, 2014 review and recommendations

 

In general, the consultant found the pipeline integrity management manuals for ATCO and AltaGas to be satisfactory with some clarification opportunities identified. The emergency response manuals for ATCO were assessed similarly. A number of opportunities for improvement were initially identified by the consultant for the AltaGas emergency response manual. In that respect, Commission staff and the consultant met with AltaGas in October 2013. AltaGas subsequently filed updated manuals and provided further clarification details. The Commission is now satisfied that previously identified shortcomings for AltaGas have been demonstrated to be resolved and that AltaGas has adequate documentation within its emergency procedure manuals. The Commission considers that completion of this review also satisfies the reference in Decision 2014-010 to share the results of the review process for the ATCO Pipelines integrity management procedures.    

In September 2014, the Commission requested reporting from ATCO and AltaGas with respect to risk identification, integrity inspections, overpressure protection and pipeline water crossings. Responses were received in November 2014. In February 2015 the Commission requested further information from ATCO and AltaGas respecting overpressure protection.

AltaGas Utilities Inc.
September 29, 2014 - AUC letter to AltaGas
November 28, 2014 - AltaGas letter to AUC
February 12, 2015 - AUC letter to AltaGas

ATCO Pipelines
September 29, 2014 - AUC letter to ATCO Pipelines
November 28, 2014 - ATCO Pipelines letter to AUC
November 28 - 2014 - Attachment to ATCO Pipelines letter
February 12, 2015 - AUC letter to ATCO Pipelines


The AUC will continue activities to ensure the ongoing safety of the pipeline systems it oversees.
 

For further information or clarification, contact Brian Shand at brian.shand@auc.ab.ca or 403-592-4434.