Canada's energy regulator has given Enbridge Inc., one of the country's two pipeline giants, until 2016 to comply with rules tied to its emergency shutdown requirements – demands the watchdog made after finding 117 of 125 pump stations across the country were not up to snuff.
The National Energy Board approved Enbridge's proposed plan last week after determining a number of the company's pump stations lacked emergency shutdown push-buttons and an alternate source of power needed to operate the shutdowns.
Enbridge's regulatory shortcomings arrive as energy companies face fierce opposition, with critics pointing fingers at the industry's stumbles. However, while the NEB found Enbridge violated the rules, the regulator also admits it only recently started pursuing investigations tied to emergency shutdown mechanisms.
"In the past, it was thought that this requirement could be met as long as an uninterruptible power supply was available," Carole Léger-Kubeczek, a spokeswoman for the NEB said Monday, noting the regulator approved Enbridge's corrective action proposal last week.
"Over time, it became apparent that having an uninterruptible power supply would not provide sufficient power to remotely close station isolation valves, and that the ability to remotely close station isolation valves was required in order to meet this particular regulation which is part of the [Onshore Pipeline Regulations].
"As a result, the board began pursuing this non-compliance with companies, in order to provide clarity regarding this regulatory requirement," she said.
Enbridge said it believed it was following the rules.
David Bryson, Enbridge's vice-president of strategy and integrated services, said the NEB noticed the problems as it inspected the pump stations between 2011 and 2012.
The pump stations already have battery backup power so that monitoring information can always be sent to a 24-hour-a-day control centre in Edmonton, he said.
But the NEB requires on-site generators as additional backup.
"We would never knowingly operate in non-compliance," Mr. Bryson said. The company believed the battery backup it already had in place "satisfied the intent of the code," he said.
"Obviously the NEB has clarified that for us, which is why we're putting together an action plan to add additional backup power."
Enbridge will have to buy equipment, he said.
"We suspect that this is a wider issue than just Enbridge," he added.
Enbridge this month told the NEB it is done installing emergency shut-down push-buttons at all of its stations. It will take three stages to meet the requirements tied to alternate power sources.
Fifty-three pump stations will be completed by 2014, another 49 pump stations and terminals by 2015 and the last 26 stations and terminals by 2016, the NEB said last week.
"The board is satisfied that the [correction action plan] proposed by Enbridge is reasonable considering the magnitude of the work required to address the non-compliances," NEB secretary Sheri Young wrote in a May 2 letter to Enbridge's chief executive Al Monaco.
The NEB may inspect other companies, the NEB's Ms. Léger-Kubeczek said.
"The board is currently continuing its efforts to make this regulatory requirement understood across industry and it intends to pursue other non-compliances on an ongoing basis."