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TransCanada rupture result of careless errors

The Transportation Safety Board has finally released its report on the TransCanada pipeline that ruptured and exploded in Northern Alberta in 2013.  The report is further proof that TransCanada has serious problems safely building and operating pipelines.   

On Oct 17th 2013, an elbow fitting on the North Central Corridor Loop (Buffalo Creek West Section) ruptured and the ensuing explosion left a crater 15 m wide, 50 m long and 5 m deep, throwing large pieces of pipeline up to 130 metres away.  Luckily the pipeline was transporting natural gas and not oil as it ruptured just 150 metres from the Wabasca River.

The 36 inch diameter pipeline was less than five years old. It ruptured as a result of critical mistakes made by TransCanada and its contractor.

First, TransCanada made a serious error early in the process by designing the pipeline to operate at a temperature lower than what it would eventually be operated at. This remarkable error was due to a failure in communication among project team members. The pipeline ruptured after a 50 day period of hotter than normal internal temperatures.   

From the TSB report:

 The maximum possible discharge temperature had not been effectively communicated among the project team members and contractors at the design stage, resulting in the use of a lower temperature during the design process. As a result, the pipeline design did not fully address its potential operating envelope (i.e., pressure and temperature) and the design did not properly account for the threat of thermal expansion.”

Secondly, TransCanada’s contractor made the ruptured elbow fitting thinner than specified and neither the contractor nor TransCanada bothered to measure its thickness prior to installation. This spectacular lack of quality control makes a mockery of TransCanada’s self-declared “world class” reputation.

From the TSB report:

“With respect to the elbow that ruptured in this occurrence, its wall thickness was not directly measured but was instead based on information from the manufacturing design drawings, which thereby overstated its value by 3.17 mm. As a result, the elbow’s calculated internal pressure rating was also overstated.”

Careless errors that TransCanada should have caught but didn’t.  This is the second TSB report on a TransCanada rupture in the last three months. The last report indicated that the cause of the massive pipeline explosion and fire in Otterburne Manitoba was due to a bad weld made 54 years ago that the company failed to detect despite their self described “leading edge” inspection technologies.

TransCanada’s Integrity Management Program is supposed to prevent pipeline ruptures like these. It failed, just like it has failed in the other eight pipeline ruptures the corporation has had in Canada since 2009- more ruptures than any other pipeline company according to National Energy Board statistics. These ruptures occurred on both recently built pipelines and pipelines that are decades old which raises serious questions about TransCanada’s ability to safely design, build and maintain pipelines.

Transportation Safety Board investigations do not “assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability”. They don’t have to because there are no “accidents” when it comes to pipeline ruptures. Every rupture is a failure of the company’s Integrity Management Program.  Every rupture is the company’s fault.  

TransCanada’s pipeline construction practices are seriously flawed and their Integrity Maintenance Program is clearly unable to protect the public and the environment from harm.

TransCanada is currently seeking approval to convert their forty year old Mainline natural gas pipeline to carry tar sands crude from Alberta through Ontario and then (in a newly built section of pipeline)  across Quebec to an export terminal in New Brunswick. The Energy East pipeline would be the largest in Canada and pump 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day, dwarfing TransCanada’s KeystoneXL pipeline proposal which President Obama rejected last week.   

According to our recent report based on TransCanada’s safety record, Energy East pipeline would have a 15 per cent chance per year of rupturing- read the report here:  Quantifying Risk: Calculating the probability of an Energy East pipeline rupture.

Sign this petition to the federal government against Energy East!

Send this letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to tell her to reject Energy East!

Watch our 4 minute video about the Energy East project here: www.canadians.org/energyeast101