With pipelines criss-crossing Alberta, through countless urban and rural areas, it’s no surprise that sometimes people put things above them. These are called encroachments and ATCO Pipelines has serious concerns relating to these obstructions. The company’s operations group works to identify these situations through regular pipeline patrols and inspections, but they can’t always be addressed immediately.
ATCO Pipelines works closely with counties and municipalities to prevent encroachments and recently embarked on a communications initiative to inform and remind homeowners in Sherwood Park about the high-pressure pipeline running through the Public Utility Lot (PUL) adjacent to their homes. Several encroachments had been identified by Strathcona County along the County-owned PUL.
The County asked for assistance in addressing concerns over the potential safety issues that these encroachments posed, as the PUL contains a 10-inch high-pressure pipeline and is protected by a Right-of-Way (ROW). A ROW is a strip of land containing one or more pipelines that is protected by a safety zone to reduce the chance of an incident, often caused by someone damaging the pipeline while digging.
To operate facilities safely, ATCO Pipelines requires a ROW to be free and clear of encroachments so it can conduct regular aerial and ground surveys/inspections and quickly and easily access the facility in the case of an emergency. This also ensures others don’t get the idea that encroachments are acceptable, thus resulting in more encroachments.
The encroachments on this particular ROW included gardens and other structures. While these things may not look unsafe, they were placed above or in close proximity to a 10-inch high-pressure natural gas pipeline, which could lead to potentially hazardous situations when owners work the land, plant trees or install structures.
ATCO Pipelines’ recently created new, easy-to-understand materials for homeowners about pipeline right-of-way safety. The new materials outline what a ROW is and why it needs to be kept clear, the difference between high- and low-pressure pipelines, examples of what encroachments look like and a reminder to always contact Alberta One-Call before beginning any digging projects. These packages were sent to approximately 900 homeowners in the affected area in January.
In early March, Mike Whittall, Senior Manager, Field Operations, ATCO Pipelines, presented to Strathcona County Council, outlining the concerns around this ROW, the steps taken so far and how to proceed going forward.
“Our first priority is safety,” says Mike. “It was great to reach an agreement with the Strathcona County Priorities Committee confirming that the encroachments discussed in Sherwood Park present a safety risk. We look forward to working closely with the County to resolve these issues.”
The County and ATCO Pipelines will be asking homeowners who currently have encroachments along this right-of-way to remove them. Additionally, joint signage is being installed along the PUL, informing residents about the nearby high-pressure natural gas pipeline. And coinciding with Dig Safe Month (April), ATCO Pipelines and the County will be holding an information session for residents in the affected area on Saturday, April 23rd.Natural Gas Right-Of-Way Information SessionDate: Saturday, April 23rdTime: 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Hall13 Brower Drive, Sherwood Park, AB
The materials developed for this initiative are being used as a pilot program to expand ATCO Pipelines’ Landowner Engagement and Education activities. Moving forward, the company is developing a plan to communicate more regularly and consistently with landowners adjacent to all 8,500 kilometres of its pipeline network to remind them about pipeline safety, right-of-way restrictions, and to always Click Before You Dig.
ATCO is a diversified global corporation delivering service excellence and innovative business solutions in Structures & Logistics, Electricity, Pipelines & Liquids, and Retail Energy. More information about ATCO can be found on www.ATCO.com.