Our Control Centre Operators (CCOs) are integral to ensuring safe operations throughout the pipeline route as well as at our terminal facilities. We spoke with CCO Ghazal Derhami to learn more about what goes on at the heart of operations for the existing Trans Mountain pipeline.

What drew you to become a CCO?

I originally studied to be a nurse, but over the years I found I wasn’t satisfied with the career path I had chosen. I decided to enrol at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) where my brother was taking power engineering. He spoke very highly of the instructors and the school, which interested me a great deal. After completing some career and personality assessments, I discovered I’m much better suited for engineering than nursing. I left the nursing program and enrolled in the Chemical Engineering Technology program at NAIT. The appeal of a shift schedule and my interest in fluid dynamics led me to where I am today.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

My day involves many tasks, including making the required operational swings, which involves opening and closing the proper valves, starting/ stopping the right pumps to direct flow to the desired destination and analyzing product density trends to determine when the operational swings need to happen. For example, a CCO is required to swing valves when redirecting flow from the main line into our Sumas tank farm in Abbotsford. The swing to this facility involves opening valves to create a new flow path for the product and closing valves on the main line to prevent the product from going to the previous destination, which would be our tank farm in Burnaby.

I also answer phone calls and communicate with our Shipper Services team, making line adjustments such as isolating a station from the main line or slowing down product movement for pressure reduction so our field personnel can do maintenance or other work, and to ensure products arrive on time and in good quality. Overall, operating the pipeline safely and efficiently and within its parameters is the primary objective.

What is the Control Centre’s role in keeping our pipeline systems safe?

We are the first line of defense. The Control Centre uses the Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Computational Pipeline Monitor (CPM) systems to monitor and determine if any potential leaks or blockages need to be investigated and addressed. We also monitor the pipeline 24/7 and make adjustments to product flow along the line to ensure products are transported safely and efficiently.

You mentioned SCADA and the role it plays in ensuring the continued safe operations of our pipeline systems. Could you further explain its purpose and function?

SCADA is essentially the CCO’s eyes and ears in the field. It’s a high-tech system that provides the most up-to-date information from the field and gives us a picture of the status of the pipeline (e.g., temperature, pressure, etc.). SCADA allows CCOs to facilitate regular operational tasks and make the necessary emergency adjustments with a click of a mouse.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

My shift mates, my supervisors and the work environment. They are all fantastic. I feel like I belong to a Control Centre family.