Posted: 30 Jan 2017

The National Energy Board in Canada has compiled new data that shows over the past three years ‘incorrect operation’ has caused an average of 20 pipeline leaks per year. An increase of four annually from the previous six years.

‘Incorrect operation’ can be defined as anything from failing to follow up procedures, to using equipment improperly.

“It's both probably one of the most difficult things for an organization to deal with, but also the most important," Mark Fleming, professor of safety culture Saint Mary's University, Halifax

Pipelines installed in the US over the past five years have the highest rate of failure since those built in the 1920s. Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust believes that human error is partly to blame;

"A lot of new pipelines being put in the ground just aren't being installed right, or things don't get tightened up quite enough, so within the first year or two things fail," Carl Weimer

Investigation into one Canadian pipeline operator found that pipelines weren’t inspected often or thoroughly enough, hadn’t properly trained control room staff, and did a poor job of managing the ground around their pipelines. A subsequent inspection did show improvement, but not before two large spills over a 12 month period.

Since the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association recommended stricter safety guidelines pipeline companies like TransCanada and Plains Midstream have improved their safety practices, and are using better inspection tools to prevent leaks.