Pipeline safety is a hot topic across North America these days. So when a group of Canadian Senators asked if they could learn more about TransCanada’s industry-leading safety record transporting oil and gas across the continent, the company invited them to come see it in action. Seven members of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources visited TransCanada on March 5 as part of the committee’s study on the safety of hydrocarbon transportation in Canada. The visit followed formal testimony given by TransCanada officials in Ottawa in February. The group met with senior operations and engineering staff who explained TransCanada’s safety management systems, followed by a visit to the high-tech Operations Control Centre (OCC) to see first-hand how our pipelines are monitored and controlled around the clock by qualified staff using the latest in satellite communications technology. They saw how our Keystone oil pipeline is staffed by three controllers, one of whom is fully devoted to monitoring the pipeline for possible problems, and learned how the Keystone controllers monitor data sent every five seconds from 16,000 data points along the pipeline and are able to isolate any section of the pipeline by remotely closing any of the dozens of valves on the system within minutes. “Having the Senators visit the OCC was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to safe and reliable operations, and showcase the culture of safety that exists at all levels in TransCanada,” said Greg Lohnes, TransCanada’s executive vice-president of operations and major projects. “Pipelines are the safest and most efficient method of moving oil and gas. The industry has an excellent record of moving 99.99% of its products safely without incident, but we are constantly striving to do even better,” Lohnes said. “TransCanada is constantly working with government regulators and industry associations to find ways of improving safety for the public and the environment and we take every opportunity to learn from the rare but unfortunate instances of pipeline failure because they impact the entire industry, not just one company.” Committee Chair Senator Richard Neufeld said he was impressed by the visit to TransCanada, which kicked off the field trip portion of the committee’s study. The Senators also visited Enbridge, Kinder Morgan – Canada, Plains Midstream Canada, Spectra Energy Transmission West, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, and had meetings with the National Energy Board, the Pembina Institute, the Alberta Surface Rights Group and the Canadian Energy Research Institute. “Many pipeline projects are being developed in Canada,” Neufeld said. “We want to ensure that our pipeline system reaches its full potential and continues to support Canada’s economy while protecting our health and our environment.” “These meetings will help us to provide guidance on the future of the industry and inform Canadians about this important sector,” said Senator Grant Mitchell, deputy chair of the committee who also visited TransCanada. “Canadians want to know all that is being done to maintain and enhance the safety of that system. This is our objective as a committee.” The committee is examining the full range of issues including design, standards, construction, operation, spill response and emergency preparedness. It is also investigating regulatory regimes that work through compliance and verification programs to ensure safety and environmental performance. The committee intends to complete its final report by June 30.