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Alberta Energy Regulator urges companies to step up detection of pipeline leaks

Flags hung over a pipeline leak to keep birds away as crews work to contain and clean up a pipeline spill at Nexen Energy's Long Lake facility, near Fort McMurray, Alta., on July 22, 2015.
Flags hung over a pipeline leak to keep birds away as crews work to contain and clean up a pipeline spill at Nexen Energy's Long Lake facility, near Fort McMurray, Alta., on July 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – The Alberta Energy Regulator is urging pipeline operators to do a better job of developing and maintaining programs to discover leaks after it examined nearly two dozen spills over the last three years.

The AER said Thursday that after reviewing 23 major spills on pipelines carrying mostly oil well effluent and produced water, it found poor training and a lack of monitoring led to delays in detecting leaks in about a third of cases.

READ MORE: ‘We sincerely apologize’: Nexen’s ‘failsafe’ system didn’t detect massive northern Alberta pipeline spill

In a bulletin, the regulator said in eight cases, staff were insufficiently trained or failed to detect leaks for several days, and in those cases it took on average 48 days for companies to respond and isolate the pipeline.

The AER said all personnel responsible for leak detection are required to be properly trained, and that competency testing and ongoing evaluations are vital.

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READ MORE: Nexen says Alberta oil pipeline started leaking as early as June 29 

The news comes only days after Nexen Energy released the findings of its investigation into a pipeline leak last July that spilled about five million litres of bitumen, sand and produced water
southeast of Fort McMurray, Alta.

On Tuesday, Ron Bailey, Nexen Energy’s head of Canadian operations, said it took close to a month to discover the leak and that was due to a number of monitoring failures.

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