Safety lapses at record level
By Dina O'Meara
High commodity prices sparked fevered activity in Canada's oilpatch in 2008, sometimes with tragic results, said Canada's federal energy regulator.
Two people died and three were seriously injured while working in the oil and gas industry last year, the National Energy Board (NEB) said in its annual report tabled in Ottawa on Monday.
The fatalities and injuries were included in 58 reportable incidents in the energy industry, the highest number in the board's history and up from 49 the previous year, it noted. The fevered levels of activity in the oil and gas sector certainly contributed to the lower safety results, one agency representative said.
"In 2008, we had the highest levels of construction activity that we've seen in any number of years," said Ken Paulson, technical leader of operations. "Two major pipeline projects across the Prairies with three pipelines being installed is a very, very busy year."
TransCanada Corp. started construction of its 3,456-kilometre Keystone pipeline from Hardisty, Alta., to two points in the U. S. Midwest last year, and Enbridge Inc. launched Southern Lights and Alberta Clipper.
One fatality, an electrocution, was related to one of the Enbridge projects, while the second death involved a single-vehicle rollover.
Paulson suggested the higher number of reportable incidents, ones resulting in damages to people, places or the environment, also were the result of the board working more closely with industry in improving reporting, rather than simply the activity levels.
"What we're trying to do is encourage people to tell us what's going on so we can use that information to hone our compliance programs," he said.
The board completed 216 compliance activities, including inspections, audits and meeting with companies, compared with 99 in 2007.
Last year, there were a total of 26 hazardous occurrences, up slightly from the number of hazardous occurrences in 2007. The increase can be linked to a corresponding increase in activity and hours worked, the board said.
The regulatory agency also presided over a record number of hearings in 2008.
The biggest challenge facing the agency this year will be keeping up with all the new infrastructure associated with the oilsands.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary HeraldPosted by Arthur Caldicott on 23 Apr 2009