Railway accidents and pipeline occurrences see spike in 2017
Railway accidents increased by 21 per cent, while pipeline occurrences increased by nearly 25 per cent
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Railway accidents and pipeline occurrences increased significantly in 2017 from 2016 across Canada, with one of those incidents leaking 961,000 litres of light crude oil condensate at Enbridge’s Edmonton terminal in Strathcona County.
But the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it’s too early to determine why the increase occurred, and emphasizes that railway accidents have remained steady over five years.
According to numbers released by the board on Tuesday, 1,090 railway accidents were reported to the board in 2017, compared to 899 in 2016, a 21 per cent increase. The five-year average is 1,208.
Of those accidents, 115 involved dangerous goods, up from 100 in 2016. Five of those accidents in 2017 resulted in the release of dangerous goods, up from two in 2016.
The board is unsure why there has been an increase in railway accidents.
“That’s exactly what we’re going to be looking at in the next few weeks,” said Transportation Safety Board Chief Operating Officer Jean Laporte.
Many of the new incidents occurred on “non-main tracks”, Laporte said.
“Those are typically less serious accidents, with less consequence,” he said. “A non-main track collision (for example), although that’s increased from 69 to 103, which is significant, those are typically rolling stock colliding at very low speed."
The number of pipeline occurrences, which includes any operational malfunction as well as accidents that cause injury or affect safe operation of a pipeline, increased from 104 in 2016 to 125 in 2017.
But only one of those occurrences resulted in a leak from the pipeline body, down from three such incidents in 2016.
“Most of the releases are at pumping stations or the storage facility. So it’s not the pipe that runs A to B,” Laporte said.
The one pipeline body leak in 2017 is what resulted in 961,000 litres of light crude oil condensate leaking at Enbridge’s Edmonton terminal last February. Leaks from federally-regulated pipelines are rare, Laporte said.
The increase in railway accidents could be attributed to more “rigorous” reporting standards in 2017, he added.
“What we found out over the last year is some of the information is not complete or accurate as reported by the railways. So over the last year we’ve tightened things up,” Laporte said.
He emphasized that railway accidents have stayed steady over the last five years, and the increase in pipeline occurrences that resulted in a release of product was up for the first time in five years.
“We need to put this in the bigger picture,” Laporte said. “There could be anomalies from one year to the other. We need to not jump too quickly to conclusions.”