‘Metal Loss’ Due to Corrosion Leads Causes of Pipeline Failure
Corrosion, the inevitable consequence of use, is the biggest single cause of leaks from oil, gas, and diluted bitumen pipelines in Canada, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) says in a new report.
“Metal loss”—which can occur as a result of either external rust or internal corrosion from the extremely harsh chemicals present in any petroleum product—was to blame for 35.7% of all Canadian pipeline spills in the last five years, the report stated. Construction and manufacturing defects in pipe were responsible for 30.6%, cracks in pipeline steel another 15.3%. Land movement and accidental breaches by heavy equipment accounted for less than 13% of all spills.
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The report claimed total pipeline losses of crude oil last year were equivalent to about 16 barrels—or “just over nine average-sized bathtubs filled to the brim.” About 121 million cubic feet of natural gas escaped, roughly the contents of 860,000 barbeque tanks.
“When you look at pipelines moving over five trillion cubic feet a year, that’s a very insignificant amount,” said CEPA CEO Chris Bloomer. “It’s not something to be concerned or alarmed about.”
(It wasn’t immediately clear what data set CEPA was looking at. Last July, a five-million-litre spill at the Nexen facility at Long Lake, Alberta, North America’s biggest-ever, “left 16,000 square metres of muskeg slathered in bitumen, sand, and produced water,” according to news reports at the time.)
Earlier this year, the National Energy Board instructed the operators of 73,000 kilometres of federally-regulated pipelines to post their emergency response plans for potential leaks no later than October 1.