Quality Assurance of Pipeline Fittings Project
The NEB, as Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, is committed to influencing improvements in the pipeline fittings supply chain. Although it does not regulate fitting manufacturers, the NEB still looked to facilitate broad dialogue on this important quality assurance issue between various stakeholders to further the goal of preventing incidents that harm people and the environment. In June 2017, the NEB hosted a technical workshop on addressing quality assurance issues of pipeline fittings. Experts from pipeline companies, distributors, manufacturers, regulators, academia, consulting companies and standards associations attended the workshop.
The workshop was held over the course of 1.5 days and included presentation sessions, a breakout session and a final wrap up session. The participants had open dialogue on quality assurance of pipeline fittings and explored potential actions or solutions to improve quality assurance for pipeline components throughout the supply chain. After further review of the discussions and suggestions from the workshop, the NEB will determine any actions that it may take. In the interim, the NEB will continue its work with various stakeholders including the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Fittings (principally elbows, tees, and reducers) made from high strength steel and heat treated by heating to a specific temperature, quenching (cooling the fitting in water or oil to a specific temperature), and tempering (heating to a specific temperature again then cooling slowly) require careful process control. For example, furnace temperature, placement of the fittings in the furnace, and quenching the fitting can all impact the fitting strength if not done correctly.
The NEB became aware of the possibility of fittings not fully meeting specifications after an incident on a gas pipeline in 2013. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) issued its report in 2015. During the investigation the TSB noted that some fittings in the pipeline system did not meet appropriate specifications. While the TSB concluded that this was not the cause of the incident, the NEB began looking into the issue to determine if what we found was a one-time occurrence or a more systemic problem.
Safety Advisories and Order
It is important to note that there have been no failures on in-service NEB-regulated pipelines as a direct result of fittings not fully meeting specifications. However, the issue of these fittings entering the supply chain, and subsequently being installed on pipelines, is an industry wide concern. NEB staff conducted research, reviewed incident reports, and met with regulated companies to assess the situation. An industry wide Safety Advisory (SA 2016-01) and Order (Order MO-001-2016) were issued in February 2016 to advise industry of the fitting manufacturers, and to require companies to report on the extent of fittings from these manufacturers in their systems. It also required companies to report within 60 days on fittings known not to meet specifications, from other manufacturers not identified in the Order. In April 2017, the NEB expanded the scope of the previous Safety Advisory (SA 2016-01A) to include two additional fitting manufacturers.
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