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Alberta - March 13, 2017

Alberta’s energy industry spans the province; unsurprisingly, keeping Alberta’s energy facilities safe is a big job—and a vital one.

Dennis Naas, manager of AER corporate security

In January, RCMP responded to a deliberate act of vandalism against a pipeline under construction near Hythe in northern Alberta. Using a piece of heavy equipment, vandals dug up a portion of the pipeline, causing an estimated $500 000 in damages.

It’s a significant case, although it’s not the first time vandals and thieves have purposely struck oilfield sites. Since 2007, over 230 events of suspected vandalism have been reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).

But as Dennis Naas, manager of AER corporate security explains, those doing the destruction don’t always consider the greater impact.

“In many cases, someone with the intent to do damage won’t understand the site, what’s produced there, or the risks and hazards of doing damage, such as potential releases or leaks,” says Naas. “Someone without that knowledge could harm nearby communities, the environment, or themselves.”

Fortunately for the case in Hythe, the damaged pipeline was not carrying product. Nonetheless, risks are always present, and the legal consequences aren’t trivial, either. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, anyone found guilty of theft or property damage can face up to 10 years in jail. Mischievous activity that puts lives at risk can result in lifetime imprisonment.

A Collaborative Effort

Several groups and authorities work together to combat crime in the oilfields, including energy companies, local police, RCMP, the AER, and most notably, the Alberta Security and Strategic Intelligence Support Team (ASSIST). One of the first programs of its kind in Canada, ASSIST works to protect critical infrastructure across the province.

“We aim to proactively protect systems, facilities, assets, and services that are essential to the health, safety, security, and economic well-being of Albertans,” ASSIST said in a statement. “When security incidents do occur, we’ll try to learn from them to help steer crime prevention efforts and assist with owners’ and operators’ risk assessments.”

For companies, the best thing to do is to stay prepared. AER rules ensure companies have plans in place for incidents where the public or environment is put at risk. Requirements for these “emergency response plans” are detailed in Directive 071: Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements for the Petroleum Industry.

The AER must be notified when an act of vandalism or theft results in impacts on the environment or disrupts operations. Otherwise, companies are encouraged to report these incidents to the RCMP and ASSIST.

And of course, the public plays an important role, too. Think you’ve witnessed or have information related to an act of vandalism? You’re encouraged to contact your local police or Crime Stoppers.

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