When a pipeline is no longer needed for operations, it must be safely dismantled, abandoned and maintained by the company that owns it. In Alberta, there are certain requirements that ensure the process is done in a way that protects the public and the environment. At Canadian Nitrogen Services, our nitrogen pipeline abandonment process follows the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) policies.
The CER details the abandonment process to oversee the lifecycle of a pipeline or vessel. All construction, operation, and abandonment decisions are based on public safety and environmental and economic considerations.
The pipeline abandonment process
Once an abandonment request has been submitted and approved, the pipeline abandonment process is allowed to be carried out. All pipeline abandonment projects should have a detailed schedule of activities, project management, and a field inspection to verify that the procedure has been completed correctly.
While each pipeline abandonment project details differ, the process typically involves:
- Cleaning and purging the pipeline to isolate harmful gases.
- Performing required reclamation procedures.
- Disconnecting the pipeline or vessel from the operating facility.
- If the pipeline is to remain in the ground, a “cut and cap” is done, which involves cutting the well-casing so that it’s below the surface and does not pose a hazard to the public. A vented cap is placed on top to “seal” the pipeline.
- Returning the pipeline or vessel to a state similar to the surrounding area.
- Removing any surface equipment that is no longer in use.
- Placing warning signs where the pipeline or vessel was abandoned.
- Scheduling an inspection to verify that the pipeline has been isolated and abandoned safely.
During the process, the pipeline must be treated as if it’s still in operation. Once abandoned, the company still owns the structure and is responsible for maintaining it. Over time, natural corrosion will eventually cause the pipeline to lose structural integrity, and it is up to the company to service it to avoid disputes and legal liabilities.
Safety and environmental considerations when abandoning a pipeline
One of the most critical steps of pipeline abandonment is that it must be emptied and isolated so that it poses no risk to the environment or the public. Mobile nitrogen services are the preferred method to remove to ensure that harmful gases are displaced, and any residual contaminants are removed.
All combustible fluids must be eliminated for a pipeline to be classified as abandoned. While other types of gases and methods can be used, nitrogen is the most popular choice because it:
- Can displace moisture and oxygen quickly and effectively
- Is a non-combustible and dry gas
- Is cost-effective
- Reduces the company’s carbon footprint
- Improves the safety of the project
- Can reach a purity level of 95-99%
- Eliminates the risk of fire/explosion
- Eliminates the complex logistics of hauling nitrogen tanks to the site
- Minimizes downtime
Where to find a mobile nitrogen supplier in Alberta for pipeline abandonment
Canadian Nitrogen Services is the top choice for mobile nitrogen supply. We run a system that is interconnected and calibrated to generate nitrogen on demand. There is no hazard or risk to running our onsite nitrogen generator as we extract it from the atmosphere.