TransCanada conducts emergency response exercises every year to test the speed and effectiveness of our resources and systems, and over the last three years we’ve spent an average of $900 million annually on pipeline integrity and preventative maintenance programs.
So on the night of January 25, 2014, when a failure occurred on a portion of TransCanada’s Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline system near the community of Otterburne, Manitoba, our people and emergency systems sprang into action. As pipelines in the area about 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg were shut down and the initial fire from the leak was extinguished in a matter of hours, it became apparent that more than 3,000 people would be left without natural gas service in the middle of winter. We mobilized every resource at our disposal to respond. Hundreds of employees and contractors worked around the clock to get the heat back on and provide temporary assistance to those affected by the outage.
We recognize our responsibility to ensure public safety, which includes providing the natural gas that keeps homes and businesses warm in winter. Over the course of several days, our crews worked alongside local emergency response agencies, Manitoba Hydro and provincial authorities to address the needs of the community. Our positive 50-year relationships with area residents, landowners and community leaders were put to the test, and we were very grateful and appreciative for the patience they exhibited and the hard work of the agencies and teams on the ground. We were also heartened by the understanding and goodwill that was shown to our company during a difficult time for everyone involved.
Russ Girling, president and CEO of TransCanada, shares his thoughts on working with the communities affected by the service outage:
Approximately 675 people visited the Community Information Centres (CICs) we set up in the surrounding communities, as we answered questions from residents and businesses and processed their claims for expenses that were directly related to the loss in gas service. All evacuated residents were provided with gift cards to cover short-term costs, and we gave out hundreds of electric heaters and reimbursed people who bought their own. We received positive feedback from public officials and we were grateful for the kindness of residents, who expressed their thanks in cards dropped off at the CICs and sent coffee and donuts to our construction trailer.
Dan MacLeod, director of facilities at Providence University College, talks about the Otterburne incident and its impact on the nearby university:
TransCanada’s safety record is among the best in the world, but we recognize that is not good enough. No safety incidents are acceptable, and we will not be satisfied until we achieve our goal of zero incidents. We consider every incident on our pipelines as a learning opportunity in order to make our facilities even safer. In 2015, TransCanada will do 150 proactive inline inspections of our pipelines – a rate that far exceeds others in the industry. We also invested more than $90 million over the last five years on research and development related to pipeline safety technologies and $38 million in 2014 alone.
Trevor Schriemer, owner of Precision Produce, talks about working with TransCanada when his business and greenhouse were without heat:
In the case of the Otterburne incident, we’ve worked closely with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) on a detailed investigation into the cause of the failure. The TSB has found that the weld which led to the incident had safely operated for more than 50 years; however, an unprecedented combination of circumstances including extreme frost, heavy equipment in the area and the absence of gas flow in the line for 20 days likely caused the fracture. Our current welding and testing processes are designed to locate small features like the one that led to this incident. And through our Pipeline Integrity Management Program, we are continually testing new technologies to advance our capabilities for inspecting pipelines.
After the incident we thoroughly inspected the pipeline and related infrastructure, including a physical inspection of all similar welds, to ensure it could be returned to service safely. We share the TSB’s emphasis on pipeline safety, and continue to incorporate safety measures into our system and enhance our maintenance and inspection programs in our natural gas network. The TSB investigation did not identify any additional actions or recommendations for TransCanada.
Safety is our number one priority. We have demonstrated this by safely transporting over one billion barrels of crude oil through our Keystone Pipeline System since 2010. Keystone includes 864 kilometres of converted natural gas pipeline across the prairies. We will take similar measures used in converting natural gas pipelines for Keystone to ensure that Energy East operates safely and with minimal impact on the environment.
Our pipeline incident rate is lower than the industry average in Canada and the United States, and we invest in industry-leading research and development work and support programs such as ClickBeforeYouDigMB.com to enhance public safety related to our facilities. Click here to learn more about TransCanada’s commitment to safety, protecting the environment and supporting communities.
David Johnson, President of Providence University College, talks about working with TransCanada: