Canada's ERCB finds Plains Midstream Canada out of compliance

Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) issued four high-risk enforcement actions against Plains Midstream Canada in relation to an Apr. 28, 2011, spill of 28,000 bbl crude oil from Plains’ Rainbow Pipeline in Northern Sunrise County, Alta., roughly 95 km northeast of Peace River. ERCB identified four areas in which Plains Midstream failed to comply with regulatory requirements, namely:

• Backfill and compaction procedures.

• Operations and maintenance procedures.

• Leak detection and response.

• Failure to test emergency response plan.

In addition to the high-risk enforcement action, ERCB’s investigation report describes the company’s substandard efforts, beyond initial notification, to ensure that the public and other stakeholders were kept informed of the incident and its progress. As a result, ERCB has directed Plains to engage a third party to audit the company’s ability to manage communications during a crisis, with results submitted no later than Apr. 30.

To further minimize the risk of a similar incident, the ERCB has also directed Plains Midstream to do the follwing:

• Implement risk-assessment procedures identifying all current and historical risks associated with pipelines of the same type.

• Conduct a major emergency response exercise by Mar. 31 with results submitted to the ERCB.

• Confirm and demonstrate that enhanced backfill procedures have been incorporated into the company’s standard operations.

Failure to comply with all ERCB-directed actions will result in the escalation of enforcement action, which can include partial or full suspension of operations.

Plains Midstream has been subject to an increased frequency of ERCB audits and inspections of the company’s pipeline operations since the spill. ERCB granted approval to restart the pipeline Aug. 26, 2011. The pipeline has been operating since Aug. 30, 2011. The spill site has been cleaned, and reclamation and remediation efforts are still under way, ERCB said.

ERCB last year responded to a leak on Plains’ Rangeland pipeline which allowed 1,000-3,000 bbl of light, sour crude to enter the Red Deer River about 80 miles northwest of Calgary (OGJ Online, June 8, 2012).

Contact Christopher E. Smith at

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