“Call before you dig.”
That was the message a somewhat sheepish-looking Colt Bond took to a pipeline safety breakfast organized by Kinder Morgan at Clearwater ski hill on Tuesday morning, June 26.
About 40 contractors, members of Clearwater Fire Department and others took part.
Last April Bond was called to repair an overturned billboard located next to Highway 5 west of Raft River Bridge.
He knew the Transmountain pipeline was nearby but there were already several billboards there and he decided to dig beside them.
A representative from Kinder Morgan, the pipeline owners, came by and asked him to stop.
When they checked they found that Bond was right over the pipeline and that he had, in fact, scratched its lining with his small excavator.
“It could’ve been a lot worse than it was,” Kelvin Stelter, the Kinder Morgan representative said later. “I told the contractor, ‘I’m glad we’re talking to him, not about him.”
Even though only a very small excavator was involved, one of the toothmarks went into a weld on the pipe.
Over time pressure cycling within the pipeline, plus corrosion, could have caused a failure, he said.
“The coating is as important as the steel,” Stelter observed.
Repairing the damage consisted of shutting the pipeline down, grinding the area smooth to eliminate stress concentrators, and then re-coating.
If the damage had been more severe, then more steel could have been added and more coating on top of that.
In an extreme case, a section of pipe could be cut out and replaced.
Pipelines are a safe way to transport crude oil and oil products, but there are risks involved as well, according to Rob Hadden, manager for damage prevention and public awareness with Kinder Morgan in Burnaby.
Pressures in the pipeline can vary from 300 to 1500 pounds per square inch.
The material in the pipe moves at five km/hr and takes 10 days to travel from Edmonton to Burnaby.
Transmountain carries a variety of products, including gasoline.
The products move through in batches. For example, there might be a batch of heavy crude, then light crude, then gasoline, then light crude again. Somewhat surprisingly, there is little mixing between the batches, Hadden said.
The products include dilbit or diluted bitumen. This consists of bitumen or very thick oil from the tar sands plus a diluent such as natural gas condensate.
Dilbit is no more corrosive than other petroleum products, Hadden said.
The damage prevention manager talked about a leak that occurred in the Olympic Pipeline near Bellingham, Washington, as an example of what could happen.
There, a contractor had cracked the pipeline but did not tell anyone. A few months later a major break occurred, spilling gasoline down Whatcom Creek.
An angler fishing downstream was overcome by the fumes and drowned. Two boys further downstream were apparently playing with fire. The spilled gasoline ignited, causing an enormous fireball. The boys later died of their burns.
The number one pipeline safety requirement is that people call before they dig, Hadden said.
BC OneCall (1-800-474-6886 or cellular *6886) can provide information not just about pipelines, but also telephone lines, electrical cables and so on.
People should call before they do any ground disturbance, not just excavation, he said.
Examples would include installing a new irrigation system or ditching, installing buried or overhead cables, stockpiling materials, or using explosives nearby.
Usually there is no charge for the service, and Kinder Morgan representatives will help landowners get the permits needed.