Pipeline Materials Quality Assurance Technical Workshop – Peter Watson Opening Remarks


June 28, 2017

National Energy Board Chair/CEO Peter Watson

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Good morning. I’d like to begin by extending a warm welcome to everyone for joining us today – I realize that each of you are taking time away from your regular work to help all of us make pipelines safer. There are people here from all over the world. It is a pleasure to have you here and I welcome you to Canada.

Focus of Workshop

As you know, the focus of this Technical Workshop is the quality assurance of pipeline components or fittings.

What you might NOT know, is this is the first technical workshop of its kind in Canada. We are proud to be leading the way on this important issue alongside our US counterpart, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, as well as our provincial counterparts in Western Canada. We are also excited to discuss quality assurance not only from a technical standpoint, but from a safety culture standpoint as well.

Our goal over the next two days is to open the dialogue on quality assurance in pipeline materials, discuss how this particular issue illustrates the critical importance of maintaining a vigilant safety culture, and have forward thinking conversations to enhance pipeline safety.

Pipeline fittings are a critical part of any pipeline system – and recently issues have arisen that call into question the quality of materials they are made from.

As you all know, fittings are required to be tested by manufacturers and again by the purchasing companies before they can be placed into service.

We rely on these tests to tell us that the fittings are safe. So what do we do, when a fitting passes all safety tests, meets the minimum standard, but doesn’t meet the specifications?

It means we have to start looking beyond just compliance with the standards. Standards are the minimum we expect as a regulator. It’s the minimum that the public expects. But I don’t think “minimum” is the word that should come to mind when we are talking about preventing incidents and all of the associated risks that come with them. We need to start considering these types of decisions through a “defensive shield” of safety culture, to ensure that we are in fact doing everything we reasonably can to prevent incidents.

Together we must use this opportunity to take a deeper look at the issue of pipeline materials in fittings, and use this information to drive actions that improve industry performance as a whole.

Amended Safety Advisory and Order

So, when the NEB learned of the issue regarding the quality assurance of pipeline materials, we immediately took preventative measures to address it through a number of enforcement actions including Safety Advisories and General Orders.

We soon realized however that this was bigger than just us, and certainly not something the NEB could tackle on its own.

And the question of could we even tackle this issue because it’s outside our jurisdiction became apparent very quickly.

In fact, when this was first brought to our attention in late 2015 – no incident had happened relating to fitting quality assurance issues nor was there an immediate risk to the public or environment.

The NEB wasn’t required by its legislation or regulations to take action – because no incident had actually happened.

So… why did we choose to take action?

Because there is no room for complacency when it comes to the safety of energy infrastructure.

The NEB refuses to wait for an incident happen that causes harm to people or the environment, before we decide to do something about it.

When we look at all the attributes of a positive safety culture, they provide valuable insights on how organizational culture influences outcomes.

This is important because what we regulate touches the lives of Canadians every day. It affects what matters to them: their lands, water, environment, communities, safety and wellbeing.

It’s what matters to the NEB as an organization – and what matters to me personally.

It’s what regulating with excellence or “regulatory excellence” demands of us. It’s not about being excellent, but rather the perpetual pursuit of excellence. Always looking for ways to improve, always looking for ways to be better.

This workshop isn’t about jurisdiction, passing the buck, laying blame or pointing fingers.

When it comes to safety we all have a stake in this game. We have to stop thinking about each of us as individual players and look at the bigger picture. Come together and collectively improve.

No one owns or controls this issue completely - and fixing it is not a one person job.

This is why we have gathered all of you here today.

I firmly believe we have the right people in this room right now – academics, regulators, manufacturers, regulated companies and international experts.

Each of you have been specifically invited because of your role in the supply chain, your expertise or both.

I look forward to the discussions this workshop will bring about and the potential solutions we will come up with. I have no doubt that after the next two days we will have identified better strategies for quality assurance of pipeline fittings.

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