Our inspections are very thorough and that’s what Albertans should expect from us as a regulator. We work well with industry to make sure things are done right in order to protect the public and the environment.
Delving Into the Details
How one AER inspector gets to the nitty gritty of pipeline construction
Ask any field inspector what they like about their job and you’ll likely get a similar response: working with industry folks who just “get it.”
This past fall, Phil Didow, an Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) field inspector out of the Midnapore Field Centre, spent an afternoon inspecting an ATCO Gas and Pipelines Ltd. project in southwest Calgary. The initiative is one of the company’s largest utility pipeline replacement and upgrade projects.
The project will surround the entire city of Calgary with a new natural gas pipeline network that will modernize the system and add capacity to meet Calgarians’ growing demand for natural gas.
“I have a good relationship with these guys. They know what we require from them, and for the most part they deliver. It’s not like we are trying to make things difficult for them—we are just doing our jobs, in the same way that they’re doing their jobs,” says Didow of the ATCO crew on this project—a group who get it.
The AER is not responsible for overseeing maintenance and development of provincial utility lines, although it does have a memorandum of understanding with the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to inspect pipelines and respond to incidents on the AUC’s behalf.
While physically inspecting the pipeline is a critical part of the exercise, Didow notes that there is also a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. AER inspectors spend many hours reviewing pipeline data, reports, and records before the inspection day. During the inspection, AER staff ask questions and converse with workers while observing the work—taking notes and snapping photos.
“Nothing is more valuable than a photo in this line of work. A picture is worth a thousand words,” he adds.
Each inspection is unique. On this day, Didow inspected 45 separate AER requirements related to pipeline construction. A report detailing the findings was then submitted to the company.
“Our inspections are very thorough, and that’s what Albertans should expect from us as a regulator. We work well with industry to make sure things are done right in order to protect the public and the environment. And when they’re not done right, we educate industry on our requirements and ensure it is corrected to our satisfaction,” adds Didow.