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Westcoast Energy fined $40,000 for 2018 natural gas pipeline explosion

Pipeline explosion at Landooz Road near Shelley Tuesday evening. Martin Krell Facebook photo

The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) has imposed a $40,000 fine to Westcoast Energy Inc. for the 2018 natural gas pipeline explosion north of Prince George.

Westcoast, a wholly owned subsidiary of Enbridge Inc. that operates as Spectra Energy Transmission received the penalty for failing to conduct an in-line inspection of its 36-inch natural gas transmission line within the allowable interval specified by its integrity management program. The notice of violation was issued under subsection 4(2) of the Onshore Pipeline Regulations.

On October 9, 2018, a rupture and subsequent fire occurred on Westcoast’s 36-inch pipeline, 13 km northeast of Prince George. The subsequent fireball was visible from the city and prompted the evacuation of some Lheidli T’enneh homes. The energy regulator sent staff to the incident site and participated in the emergency response. To ensure immediate safety, an inspection officer order was issued to Westcoast to limit the operating pressure of segments of the 36-inch line and the company’s parallel 30-inch pipeline. The regulator then conducted regulatory oversight activities and an investigation to find out if additional enforcement measures were needed. It found that Westcoast did not follow its integrity management program for stress corrosion cracking and inspection practices and that had Westcoast done so, the pipeline defect could have been detected to avoid the rupture.

The Transportation Safety Board conducted an incident investigation into the rupture and released its report on March 4, 2020. This report indicated the rupture originated at stress corrosion cracks on the outside surface of the pipeline.

Following the incident, Westcoast took a number of steps to prevent the same thing from happening again in the future. This included shortening the in-line inspection interval for its 36-inch pipeline and implementing numerous organizational changes to address integrity management practices.

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