Spill Detection Technology



NCLGA Executive Recommendation: No Recommendation


WHEREAS currently accepted technologies, including SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and MBS (Material/Mass Balance System), can fail to detect leaks between 1.5 to 3% of pipeline flow volume which could result in upwards of 100,000 litres per hour of crude oil leaking without detection on a pipeline transporting 500,000 barrels per day;

AND WHEREAS other internal industrial leak detection tools such as Smart Pig Technology have been proven to fail to locate pipeline flaws resulting in environmental damage:

AND WHEREAS external hydrocarbon sensing cable is a proven technology that can detect leaks of less than 1 litre, making it possible to locate, contain and repair leaks before they become major environmental disasters:

THEREFORE IT BE RESOLVED that the NCLGA and UBCM lobby the Provincial and Federal governments to implement regulations that ensure pipeline safety standards are to the highest available standards and include mandatory external hydrocarbon sensing technologies.


Presently, pipeline infrastructure is a common means for transporting Canada’s energy resources.  Economic and political pressures to increase market access for these resources are growing.  This has resulted in greater interest to develop new pipeline infrastructure for transporting these resources across the province of British Columbia.

However, current pipeline infrastructure is subject to failure.  Examples of larger pipeline failures in Canada include over 200,000 litres of oil leaking from a pipeline near North Battleford, Saskatchewan in July 2016 and approximately 100,000 litres of oil leaking from a pipeline near Swift Current, Saskatchewan in August 2016.  Failures like these have resulted in diminished public confidence in the capacity of pipelines to effectively transport energy resources in a safe manner that won’t risk our natural environments.  Further, this has resulted in significant opposition to the development of pipeline infrastructure, because of the environmental risks.

Presently, SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and MBS (material/mass balance system) are acceptable forms of pipeline detection.  These technologies use pressure and flow sensors with a computer algorithm to detect possible leaks.  The theoretical leak detectability of these technologies is between 1.5% and 3% of actual flow.  As an example, 1.5% - 3% of flow from a 500,000 barrel a day pipeline could result in 50,000 to 100,000 liters of oil continuously leaking from the pipeline every hour without detection.  This spill of oil into our natural ecosystems could continue until the leak was observed from the outside, and could potentially result in an environmental disaster. Smart Pig Technology is often utilized to supplement SCADA and MBS leak detection technology.  Smart Pig Technology involves sending sensors through a pipeline to detect potential weaknesses in walls.  It has been demonstrated that this technology is subject to missing flaws in the integrity of pipelines.

However, significant pipeline leaks are entirely preventable with existing leading-edge technology.  External hydrocarbon sensing cable technology is capable of detecting less than one litre of leaked oil from a pipeline.  This technology produces no false alarms and if triggered, it is guaranteed that product from inside the pipeline is now outside the pipeline, which trained crews can then respond to in a timely manner.

The District of Kitimat believes that in order to protect our province’s pristine and abundant natural environments, any future pipeline infrastructure development must be regulated to the highest safety standards available and should include mandatory external hydrocarbon sensing technologies.


UBCM Comments:

The UBCM membership has not previously considered a resolution calling on the provincial and federal governments to enact pipeline safety standards that require the use of external hydrocarbon sensing technologies.

The UBCM membership endorsed resolution 2014-LR3, which in part proposed that the National Energy Board should require pipeline operators shipping diluted bitumen to provide “site specific consequence analyses and response plans and tactics for submerged and sunken oil,” subject to public review and approval by impacted communities. More generally, UBCM members have consistently endorsed resolutions expressing concerns about potential negative impacts of land based and marine spills (including but not limited to 2015-A4, 2015-B13, 2015-B30, 2015-B31, 2014-LR3, 2012-A8, 2012-B122, 2011-LR6, 2010-B87, 2010-B139, 2008-B32, 2008-B143, 2007-B6, 2007-B19, 2007-B173, 2006-LR2, 2005-LR4, 2003-B23).

North Central Local Government Association