New AER program seeks to step up Alberta pipeline risk management

Image: AER

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has launched a program to evaluate the effectiveness of safety and loss management systems (SLMS) of pipeline operators.

Pipeline-operating companies in Alberta are already required to develop and implement a documented SLMS under AER regulations, however, until now operators weren’t required to share their specific plans with the regulator.

“Essentially we want to make sure that they have effective systems in place to manage the risks of their pipelines,” said AER spokesman Jordan Fitzgerald.

During the week of April 17, the AER intends to send a self-assessment form to approximately 50 oil and gas pipeline licensees. Companies will have six weeks fill in the form, have it reviewed and signed by a senior officer within the company, and return the document to the AER.

The regulator will in turn will review the submitted form “to determine if a more detailed review of an operator’s SLMS is needed,” Fitzgerald said.

The AER says that completion of the form is voluntary, however, licensees that do not return the self-assessment and declaration form, or who submit a poorly completed form, “will raise concerns that an adequate SLMS has not been implemented.” This may result in a detailed review by the AER of the licensee’s SLMS.

The program complements other work being done at the AER to reduce pipeline incidents.

The regulator conducts pipeline inspections on a regular basis to ensure operators are in compliance with regulations and have proper leak detection strategies in place.

It provides education on pipeline integrity and shares with the industry trends and common reasons for pipeline failures.

Earlier this year, the AER released a report on pipeline performance in the province. The data for the report was collected last year as a “new way of reporting [that] is designed to provide greater transparency and drive increased industry accountability,” AER CEO Jim Ellis said in a statement at the time.

Fitzgerald noted, “The AER believes all pipeline incidents are preventable, so ensuring that operators have an effective safety and loss management system in place is one way that we can prevent pipeline incidents in the province and improve industry performance as a whole.”

An SLMS information session has been scheduled by the AER for May 10, 2017 to respond to questions regarding the program and how to fill out the self-assessment and declaration form.

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