In the event of a spill on land, several different groups co-ordinate efforts to react quickly and effectively. Trans Mountain uses the Incident Command System to effectively manage its response. This system allows for seamless coordinated action with government agencies and Aboriginal communities.
For larger spills, government agencies such as the National Energy Board and provincial or municipal agencies will often share in the responsibility for command of the situation. Trans Mountain will always be present, and the National Energy Board will often be involved. Additional groups may include Environment Canada and representatives from the province’s environment and emergency services agencies.
Trans Mountain also works with environmental consultants, spill response experts, emergency response consultants, response contractors (personnel and equipment), medical aid (contract company with ambulance on site), and wildlife rescue consultants. Additionally, Western Canadian Spill Services supplies equipment, training and coordination exercises for the oil industry in Alberta.
Upon receiving, a report of a land-based spill, Trans Mountain’s 24/7 control centre operator will activate a safe pipeline shutdown. This would launch a series of emergency procedures, which include shutting down pump facilities and isolating the suspected spill area by closing valves, notifying key responders and documenting conditions and actions. Ground field staff or aerial patrols are sent out to investigate the area in question. Until the cause of the alarm has been established, control operators are not authorized to re-start the line or resume operations. Pipeline restart after a report and shutdown due to a suspected leak follows a strict protocol and requires approval from two directors.
A safe pipeline shutdown is an orderly action plan including pump facilities along the line:
- Facilities and upstream pumps would be shut down to avoid pushing more product to the suspected release area
- Upstream valves would be closed when safe to do so (once the line is de-pressurized) to isolate the area
- Downstream pumps will continue to remove as much product as possible from the area around the suspected incident. Once the downstream area has been cleared as much as possible, the valve is closed on the downstream side to fully isolate the area.
From alert to isolation, this procedure takes about 15 minutes or less. Trans Mountain then activates response personnel and procedures and notifies regulatory agencies. Trans Mountain has backup power supplies at all of our stations that can safely perform the shut down functions, including in the event of a power failure.
Oil Spill Containment and Recovery (OSCAR) trailers are located strategically at various points along the Trans Mountain Pipeline. These trailers contain various tools and spill response equipment ranging from absorbent materials and skimmers, to booms and other cleanup tools specific to the area. They can be activated at a moment’s notice. Additionally, at facilities, Trans Mountain stocks spills drums with absorbent material to assist in immediate cleanup of any local spill.
Spills that occur in frozen conditions are particularly challenging, however Trans Mountain crews are trained in specialized techniques to recover oil. Cold weather exercises are attended regularly by Trans Mountain crews to learn the skills necessary to address these safety and recovery issues. The OSCAR trailers that are located across the Trans Mountain system have specific cold weather recovery equipment for such situations.
Trans Mountain can launch an immediate air-monitoring program for the protection of responders and local area residents. If the potential exists for hydrocarbon vapours to reach unsafe concentrations in the community, local police will be advised to initiate evacuation of the affected area.
Review an introductory summary of our emergency response plans that was prepared for workshops with first responders and emergency managers along the pipeline corridor.