PipeFX Limited president Alan Goddard questions if it’s worth the risk to add another pipeline to a corridor that runs north to south through Cochrane and suggests this could be the right time to move them all to an existing pipelines corridor west of the corporate limits.
In a 15-page white paper released Jan. 14, entitled “The Pipeline Hazard Corridor in Cochrane, Alberta” Goddard identifies the potential hazard to residents and properties should a major leak or rupture occur within Cochrane in any of the high-pressure pipelines running through town. By adding an additional 42” natural gas pipeline to an already crowded corridor he says it further compounds the potential hazard.
Through his paper, being distributed to local officials, developers and registered mail to involved pipeline companies and the chair of the National Energy Board (NEB), Goddard wants to draw attention to the unnecessary hazard and believes it’s not too late to change to the route. In fact, he believes it might be the best possible time window.
Future work on the Hwy. 1A-Hwy. 22 interchange means adjustments will be required for existing pipelines in the highway corridor. He also questions whether the two existing 36” high-pressure natural gas pipelines have sufficient wall thickest based upon adjacent residential density.
At a minimum, Goddard believes there should be full disclosure of potential failure consequences by TransCanada to Cochrane officials and residents. Also, those purchasing homes near the corridor should also be entitled to receive full disclosure of the pipeline hazards before signing on the dotted line.
Goddard makes it clear he is pro-pipeline and has been in the industry for over 35 years. He strongly believes 99.999 per cent of them are safe and deliver product without incident. But pipeline failures do occur and when they do they don’t discriminate.
“Pipeline risk is defined as = (probability of failure) x (consequence of failure),” he writes in his paper. “Since the probability of failure is about the same for both Cochrane vs west route, it seems obvious that the Cochrane corridor is a higher risk choice than the west corridor. Why take the high-risk route when the failure consequences are unacceptable?”
Goddard says open houses, presentations and information packages for the West Path project included serene images of bicycles and nature.
“There was no mention of the large areal extent of the potential for death, injury or property damage,” states the paper. “This positive spin may be misleading and/or unbalanced and may significantly diminish the credibility of the stakeholder engagement.”
TransCanada says they were thorough in route selection
TransCanada says their public consultation has been extensive and thorough since it was launched in spring 2017.
Jennalee Colpitts, TransCanada communications specialist, says the company has taken into account comments, concerns and other feedback from the Cochrane community related to routing, environmental and socio-economic effects, mitigation measures and safety.
“The proposed route was selected after receiving and reviewing this feedback and after careful review to ensure we minimized the impact to the land and environment and ensured public safety,” she says.
“TransCanada has been operating safely in the Cochrane area for more than 50 years and the safety of the public, our employees and the environment is our top priority. As with all our projects and operating facilities regardless of where they are located, the proposed project will be designed, built and operated in a safe and environmentally responsible manner with several measures in place that reduce or avoid the possibility of an incident from occurring.”
“This includes strict adherence to industry standards and best management practices, incident prevention measures, sophisticated 24/7 system monitoring, emergency response, ongoing maintenance among others.”
Touring the Corridor
While touring the pipeline corridor with Goddard, several stops were made so he could explain the route it takes through town. Along the way, he pointed out their proximity to homes, the CP mainline, commercial developments and recreational fields.
The pipelines run through the open space of the land occupied by the Cochrane and District Agricultural Society then under the CP Rail mainline, something he believes could add a domino effect, before it follows a route in close proximity to west Cochrane homes, businesses and recreational fields. Travelling further south to the Fireside neighbourhood, he pointed out how close the corridor runs to homes.
Goddard presents several examples of the tragic consequences of a failure of pipelines in his paper. He draws particular example to the lines sandwiching the 68-unit condo Lofts on the Bow and in close proximity to the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on George Fox Trail.
The Lofts on the Bow is located between four high-pressure lines To the east of the Lofts are two 36” high-pressure natural gas pipelines. To the west are a 4” high pressure mixed natural gas liquids line and a 6” high-pressure ethane line The new 42” line is proposed to run east of the property.
“A nearby major leak or rupture in any of those pipelines could result in extensive fatalities, injuries and/or property damage,” the paper states.
Natural gas pipeline ruptures will usually ignite at the source, he explains. If not, the gas may travel as a vapour cloud and potentially ignite as a flash fire. A vapour cloud explosion is unlikely but could occur in the event of confinement.
Even if they rupture 50 metres below the ground, the level proposed for the new pipeline near the church, the gas could follow fractures to the surface.
“Could it then find routes to the surface that lead to the lower levels of the church and condo unit where it enters, detonates and is followed by major fires?” he questions. “Has this assessment been done?”
Later on the paper points to a potential scenario that is simply terrifying.
“Some 200 people might be at the church and some 120 folks might be in the condo units. Another 100 kids might be in the soccer park across the road.”
The West Corridor
The west corridor he refers to is one his engineering company assisted in developing for a pipeline company in the 1990s to carry hazardous liquids. The direct and cheapest route was from north to south through the middle of Cochrane, but instead, the pipeline company agreed to bypass the town.
“This was done to avoid the unacceptable potential consequences of killing or injuring many residents in the event of a major leak or rupture,” the states in the paper.
NOVA Gas Transmission (NGTL), a wholly owned subsidiary of TransCanada PipeLines Limited (TransCanada), has made application with the NEB to construct, own and operate the West Path Delivery project to supply southwest Alberta and connected downstream markets with natural gas produced in Western Canada.
They have made several presentations on the project, including one to Cochrane town council, and filed the applications with the NEB last February. They hope to begin construction by June 2019.
Goddard isn’t one of about a dozen intervenors in the area, that includes the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, but he believes his white paper still could have an impact.
He believes the NEB would make note of any movement within Cochrane to change the route of the line.
“The NEB is the master of their own process so they can change their mind or even their timing at any particular time they choose.”
Goddard has over 35 years in the oil and gas industry, including pipeline design, route selection, project management, construction, testing, risk assessments, defect assessments, drain-down studies, isolation valve siting, regulatory affairs and hydraulics. He holds a B.Sc (Eng) and is an MBA.
The same day he released white papers on real estate pipeline hazard disclosure and on sour gas pipeline hazards in Devon, AB.