Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue 38 - Evidence - February 26, 2013

OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met this day at 6:11 p.m. to study the current state of the safety elements of the bulk transport of hydrocarbon products in Canada.

Senator Grant Mitchell (Deputy Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Good evening. This is the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. I welcome everyone who is here in the room and everyone from the public who is watching this on television.

I am Grant Mitchell from Alberta. I am the deputy chair of this committee and am sitting in tonight for our chair, Senator Richard Neufeld from British Columbia, who is regrettably absent. It is my privilege to chair this committee in his absence.

Having introduced myself, I would like to introduce my colleagues around the table. Present are Senator Jacques Demers from Quebec, Senator Paul Massicotte from Quebec, Senator Elaine McCoy from Alberta, Senator Bert Brown from Alberta, Senator Dennis Patterson from Nunavut, Senator Dan Lang from Yukon and Senator Judith Seidman from Quebec.

We have with us hard-working and supportive staff — our clerk Lynn Gordon and our two Library of Parliament analysts, Marc LeBlanc and Sam Banks — who are instrumental in all the work we do.

In November 28, 2012, this committee was authorized by the Senate to initiate a study on the safe transportation of hydrocarbons in Canada. The study will examine and compare domestic and international regulatory regimes, standards and best practices relating to the safe transport of hydrocarbons by transmission pipelines, marine tanker vessels and railcars. The committee has held six meetings to date on this topic and we propose to report by the end of June.

In the first portion of our meeting today we have the pleasure of welcoming Craig Martin, Vice President of the Office of Public Safety from the Canadian Welding Bureau.

Mr. Martin, we received a copy of your opening remarks in advance. I invite you to proceed with them, after which we will have a question and answer session. Thank you very much for being here and welcome.

Craig Martin, Vice President, Office of Public Safety, Canadian Welding Bureau: Thank you, honourable senators, for the opportunity to speak with you today. I am pleased to be able to participate in this important study that the Senate has undertaken related to the safe transport of hydrocarbons. I serve as the Vice President of Public Safety of the Canadian Welding Bureau, known more commonly as the CWB. I will provide a brief overview of our work of the CWB and our work to promote a safe Canadian infrastructure through the use of high-quality welding.

The Canadian Welding Bureau was formed in 1947 to administer the then newly launched CSA standard W47. In the early part of the 20th century, welding was still in its infancy and, as such, was regarded by many engineers and designers as unproven and unreliable. At that time, most structures, vessels and piping systems were joined by riveting. By the 1930s, welding had become common and standards in this area began to take shape. Canadians took a position of leadership in the global welding industry and developed one of the first welding certification standards to ensure that the welding process provided consistently high-quality results.

The CWB is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded solely by the industry that we serve. Since 1947 our certification programs have expanded beyond the welding of steel, and we now offer programs for aluminum welding, resistance welding, welding electrodes and welding inspectors, to name but a few. In all cases, our programs are based on standards produced by the Canadian Standards Association. As the committee has heard previously from Mr. Morton of the CSA, these standards are developed by technical committees representing a balanced matrix of industry, regulators, engineers and users. This ensures that CWB certification programs continue to be relevant to the current needs of industry and the latest technologies and uses.

With offices in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, the CWB's team of 160 staff provide services from Vancouver Island through to Newfoundland. The majority of our services are provided on the shop floor, providing guidance and oversight to multiple industry sectors involved in welding. The CWB is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada as a certification body and is the only national organization with a primary focus on welding.

Today the CWB has over 6,000 welding fabrication companies certified across Canada and throughout the world. The CWB's primary mission is to help protect the safety of Canadians. To support this mission, the CWB provides its services not only to Canadian organizations but also to organizations around the world that supply welded structures and products to Canada.

Each year the CWB witnesses the welding of over 90,000 test plates completed by welders and trains thousands of welding supervisors, welding inspectors and welding engineers. In addition, CWB staff provide an independent review of over 30,000 welding procedures to ensure compliance with national standards and industry best practice.

It is this combination of qualified welders, qualified welding supervisors and engineers, and qualified welding procedures that form the core of our certification programs and, in turn, help ensure high quality and safe welds. If one of these elements is missing, the risk of weld quality issues and failure greatly increase.

CWB's welding certification programs have been adopted in several product sectors. For example, fabricators of buildings, bridges and cranes all must be certified under the requirements of national standards and building codes. As a result, these welded product categories have a strong track record of safe performance.

We believe this impressive record of safety can serve as a model for the pipeline industry.

The welding industry contributes over $5 billion to the Canadian economy and employs over 300,000 individuals. Through our membership and advocacy arm, the Canadian Welding Association, we are actively involved in working with our over-34,000 members to ensure the industry in Canada remains healthy.

Looking at the welding industry as a whole, we face some broad challenges. At the forefront, Canada is in the midst of a skills shortage, and the welding trade is no exception. With an aging demographic and a strong demand for welding professionals in several sectors, including mining and natural resources, an active effort must be made to attract young people to the industry and to ensure that we have the trained labour force required to meet the needs of the industry, now and into the future. We must also work to improve the ease of labour mobility from province to province to ensure that skilled tradespersons can go where they are needed.

In looking at ways to enhance pipeline safety, the CWB sees two main challenges. First, existing standards must be applied consistently. As the committee has heard previously, Canada has a world-class pipeline construction standard, CSA-Z662, which provides industry with best practices to ensure high quality and safe pipelines.

However, the application of this standard does vary from province to province, with each regulator adopting the standard in slightly different ways. This may result in inconsistencies in the application of the standard and create inefficiencies for organizations working in multiple jurisdictions. Related to the welding requirements of this standard, the CWB currently offers an independent review of CSA-Z662 welding procedures to industry to assist in ensuring a consistent approach.

The CWB has seen the value of a central body to oversee welding-related issues in the wide range of industries we serve. This has resulted in a level playing field and a minimum competency demonstration for all welding fabricators, as well as an efficient system for those organizations working and supplying product in multiple jurisdictions.

The CWB wants to work with the NEB and other relevant parties to investigate how we can use our unique skill set and services to help ensure that the welded fabrication of pipelines is efficient and safe. If the integrity of welds in our national pipeline infrastructure can be demonstrated through standards and oversight, this will increase the confidence of the public of their safety and the safety of the environment.

Second, a focus must be put on the skilled trades involved in the fabrication of pipelines. A key element in ensuring high-quality welds, and as a result safe pipelines, is to ensure the supply of properly-trained welding personnel. The current skills shortage not only creates difficulties in finding skilled tradespersons but introduces a risk that those doing the work now may not have the level of skill that we have relied on in the past.

The CWB believes there are several things that must be done to address this situation. The creation of a national training curriculum for welders would provide colleges and other training institutions with a current and comprehensive approach to create a first-class generation of skilled trades. Government, industry and training organizations must work together to meet the needs of the future.

To fully meet the needs of industry, we must also work to tap into specific demographics, such as women and Aboriginals, that have not historically been a primary source of skilled trades labour. In addition to training Canadians, a key part of the solution is bringing in skilled foreign workers. The federal government's recent changes to the Federal Skilled Trades Program is a positive step forward, and CWB is also working throughout the world to ensure that potential immigrants in Canada are trained to Canadian standards and requirements so that they are job- ready when they arrive.

Before I wrap up, there is one additional issue that the CWB sees as key to ensuring our infrastructure is safe. Canada enjoys its safe infrastructure in great part to the world-class design, product and safety standards it has in place. With an increased shift offshore of production of both manufactured goods and infrastructure construction, Canada must work to ensure the continuation of the high-quality environment that we have created. With respect to welding, CWB travels the globe to certify and inspect organizations supplying product to Canada, ensuring that they can meet our standards of safety.

We urge all parties involved, both government and industry, to ensure that Canadian standards are in force regardless of where production takes place. This is key if we are to continue to enjoy the high level of confidence the Canadian public has in our national infrastructure.

The Canadian Welding Bureau has a strong track record of success in the structural steel industry, leveraging its unique national approach to ensuring weld integrity and the resulting safety of all Canadians. We believe the approach in this industry segment can translate well into the pipeline industry. We look forward to working with industry to assist them in continually improving the safety and integrity of our national pipeline infrastructure.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Martin. We will turn to questions now.

Senator Lang: I would like to thank our witnesses for being so patient with this committee's late start.

I am a bit confused. I read through my notes and have listened to what you have said, and my understanding is that you have the responsibility to inspect welds. Then I go further into what you have presented to us, and you want to work with the National Energy Board so you can use your unique skill sets. Who is responsible for inspecting the welds on pipelines?

Mr. Martin: The CWB is mandated through several product and safety standards to be the independent third party. Within the pipeline world, that does not exist. The role that we play for pipelines when it comes to weld inspection is up to the regulators and the owners of the pipelines to dictate, following CSA-Z662, as to who can inspect those.

CWB does play a role at present in the sense that we certify the welding inspectors and we provide them with an endorsement or a qualification to the Z662 standard so they can demonstrate that the weld inspection is done. We do not actually inspect welds made upon a product basis; we certify the organizations doing the welding. We ensure that the welders are competent, that the people overseeing the work are competent and that they have a weld procedure or a recipe, if you will, to follow.

In the pipeline world, those roles are split up with different jurisdictional bodies, depending on whether it is a national or provincial pipeline, and also depending on the pleasure of the regulator.

Senator Lang: That leads me to another question. In your presentation you indicated the provinces had different standards or different requirements for welds. Could you explain that to me? It would seem to me that a pipeline is a pipeline and a weld is a weld.

Mr. Martin: Correct. The requirements in Z662 on the technical side are very consistently applied. The way the Z662 standard is adopted by the different regulatory bodies differs, and they can add new requirements. Around your question of who witnesses the weld test and who does the inspection, they can add different requirements. Welding on its own, as a science, is very consistent. Welding is welding, and you cannot do it differently in one province or another.

However, the level of oversight and the regulatory body's input on who looks at the welding procedures and who validates welder qualifications may vary from province to province, depending on how they adopt that.

Senator Lang: I would like to go further on the question of welds and what happens after you have gone through the process of the safety inspections and the actual pipelines in place at the present time. The committee has received information that on average, if I am not mistaken, we could have up to 10 or 12 ruptures a year on pipelines in Canada. I think those statistics are fairly accurate, though I am going on memory here. Do you have any idea how many of these ruptures have been caused by faulty welds?

Mr. Martin: No. I would have to do some research to get back to you on that. Ruptures in pipelines can happen through a number of mechanisms: It could be weld failure, corrosion related or it could be a failure of the base metal itself. We could provide information in the form of statistics back to this committee.

Senator Lang: The key question for us is on the competency of the welds being employed in the pipeline industry and whether any of the ruptures that have taken place are attributed to faulty welds. I understand the corrosion and other aspects.

Mr. Martin: I would not be able to answer that question today. I would have to do some research.

Senator Lang: You could get back to us. Thank you very much.

Senator Wallace: Mr. Martin, on the training and certification of welders that you oversee, perhaps you could explain to us how you train a welder. How long does it take? Are there written exams? Is there an educational background expected? Perhaps take us through that.

Mr. Martin: That is an excellent question. When training welders, there are many different career paths or ways when you ask someone how they became a welder. In our system in Canada, the earliest exposure for training of welders happens at the high school level. Many of the people in our industry will receive their initial training in high school and then they would normally do one of three methods. They could go to a community-type college and take usually somewhere between a one and a two-year welding program. They may go join a union — the iron workers and boiler makers, that type of institution — that has their own in-house training programs. Again, it would be a one or two-year program. There are also a number of private training institutions. In those cases, they are usually accelerated because it is a full-time, 40-hours-a-week training program.

The material covered is both theoretical and practical. In theory, it is possible to become a certified or qualified welder simply through the demonstration of a practical test. However, what industry normally demands, especially if you get into journeypersons, the Red Seal trade, is also a theoretical component. We cover issues of general workplace safety, welding specific safety, the ability to read drawings and blueprint, basic metallurgy and quality control, normally combined with an emphasis on the practical side.

In a welder program, typically no more than 30 percent of the training they go through would be theoretical in nature, so 70 per cent would be practical skills. Their primary role is to translate the welding procedure that the welding supervisor and engineer develop for the materials being joined to make a high-quality weld. They would spend the majority of the time on the practical side.

As I mentioned, we have put programs in place throughout the world. That 70/30 is the basis of our program. We want to ensure they have the practical skill set.

We offer many other training programs to welders looking to upgrade to welding inspectors, technicians or technologists. There is more emphasis on the theoretical knowledge than there would be on the practical side.

Senator Wallace: Since your organization is doing the certification, and you described a lot, it depends on the circumstances. I suppose it also depends on the background an individual has before he comes to you for that certification, whether he has taken it welding in school or it has all been on-the-job.

Do you have a formalized checklist you take the applicants through that they have to meet? For example, there are certain standards one must meet to get a degree from university. Do you have a set standard that everyone you certify has to meet?

Mr. Martin: Absolutely. The CSA standards that we administer and follow define the competency requirements for each type of individual in the welding process. For supervisory and engineering roles, it defines the minimum education and experience requirements before you can declare that person certified.

At the same time, we also do an independent verification, normally through an examination process, to ensure that they have those skills. Since it is a certification, there is an ongoing verification. It is not a diploma where you have it, hang it on the wall and it is good for life. Certification implies by definition that there is an ongoing verification.

With welders, the standard again defines the competency, but there are different practical tests of varying degrees of difficulty that reflect the type of work the individual is being expected to do. If you make simplistic welds on basic processes on common materials, there is one test. If you want to do complex, high-strength alloy steels on an open route piping situation, it is another test. Individuals can work their way up and hold multiple qualifications. Everything we do is defined by the standards, by the industry; this is what industry says the competency levels should be.

Senator Wallace: I have a second question, but I could leave it to second round.

Senator McCoy: Thank you for being here and for your patience, as we have already said.

Mr. Martin: Not a problem.

Senator McCoy: First, let me say that I have no technical backing in this area whatsoever. A constituent who is a former inspector and presumably has all the technical background that you and your colleagues have emailed me and told me there are several different kinds of welding processes. I thought I caught you alluding to that in one of your earlier answers.

Mr. Martin: Yes.

Senator McCoy: Could you explain that to me?

Mr. Martin: Again, that is an excellent question. I mentioned that the standard defines the different levels of competency. Part of that is based on the complexity of the welds they are making, but the welding process itself is also what we call an essential variable. If it changes, you need to demonstrate competency again.

When most of us think of welding, we are familiar with shielded metal arc welding or stick welding, which looks like a coat hanger with coating on it and as you weld, it melts away. That is a welding process that has been around since the 1930s and earlier. Industry is shifting to semi-automatic processes where it is still manually manipulated by the welder, but what you are melting off is being fed on a large spool. It is more efficient because you do not have to change the rod. You can weld at faster speeds.

The shift is also toward automation. There is a new category out there called a welding operator. That is someone who has to set up fairly complex equipment — usually computer controlled robotic systems, automated tracking systems — and that does the work. It takes a bit of the human error factor out of the welding process. It adds cost to the industry up front, but over time there is a very fast payback on the equipment. It has also pushed industry to recognize that they need an entirely different skill set of people to operate that equipment. You need more techie people as opposed to hands-on people to do that.

There are varying welding processes used depending on the type of manufacturing.

In pipelines, quite often there are multiple processes used in the same weld. The root of the weld — the initial pass — may be put in one process and the fill of the rest of the joint may be put in another process. There may be concern about the quality of that first pass, which is theoretically the most difficult, and they use a process where the welder has more control. The next one is little easier and they will build that up using a faster process to have the maximum efficiency.

Senator McCoy: We are talking about taking two pieces of pipe and joining them.

Mr. Martin: That is correct.

Senator McCoy: Do they start and build up the welds? I think CEPA said something about that. I did not know that.

Mr. Martin: That is right. I am generalizing, but on pipeline welds, critical welds, you are looking for 100 per cent penetration, meaning the entire thickness of the material is completely fused. There are other, less critical applications where you can have partial fusion, but in pipeline welds —

Senator McCoy: They are under pressure.

Mr. Martin: They are under pressure, correct.

Senator McCoy: My very quick instructor said there is a process called F3 and a process called hydrogen welding. Can you explain the difference between them?

Mr. Martin: The F numbers he is referring to describe the type of electrode on the shielded metal arc process being used. There is F3 and F4 is the other one. An F3 electrode is easier to manipulate; it is easier for the operator to control. However it is called a non-low hydrogen electrode. In welding, hydrogen is the enemy. As metal melts from the atmosphere, hydrogen breaks down from the atmosphere and goes into the weld. Hydrogen and weld metal do not like to mix. When the weld cools we talk about cracking, which is the most critical fault in welding. If hydrogen gets trapped in a weld when the weld cools, it may not be immediately apparent. It may happen over a number of weeks. That hydrogen wants to get out, and it forces its way out as a crack.

An F3 electrode is used in applications where low hydrogen control is not critical. It might be because the material is not susceptible to hydrogen or it might be a weld that is not under high stress or high restraint, so cracking is unlikely to occur. An F4, or low-hydrogen, electrode has a coating that protects the molten metal from hydrogen penetration, meaning it is a much safer weld if that weld is under high pressure.

Normally in a pipeline weld, hydrogen control is something they are concerned about. The standards address that by dictating the use of certain types of electrodes.

The training, though, is different. In most training, you start with an F3, because it is easier, and then you work your way up to an F4. That is a performance variable in a welder qualification. An F4-qualified welder can weld F4 and F3, but not vice versa. They have to demonstrate that they have the competency to weld that more difficult electrode.

Senator McCoy: Are you telling us that pipelines are using the low hydrogen technology?

Mr. Martin: Typically. It depends on the application and on the materials being welded, but the CSA-Z662 standard would be very clear on what electrodes are appropriate and for which application. Standards do permit the use of non- low hydrogen electrodes, but it is usually under fairly restricted conditions.

Typically on a high-pressure, critical weld, a low-hydrogen electrode would not be permitted. Again, though, it would be up to the technical standard to define those situations.

Senator McCoy: We should probably ask the pipeline companies themselves how much of each weld they have employed on their systems, should we not?

Mr. Martin: You could. To be honest, though, the amount of welding is not the critical factor. If there are 10 welds or 10,000 welds, it all comes down to the quality of those welds.

Senator McCoy: Yes.

Mr. Martin: In any design and construction process, most designers want to minimize the amount of welding because that adds cost and potential risks; every joint that you make, if it is not done correctly, adds more risk. In most cases, minimizing the number of welds made on a project is critical.

At the end of the day, the critical thing is to ensure that the person making that weld is competent, that they have a procedure — that somebody has thought about how to join those two pieces of metal. Questions like whether we should be using a low hydrogen or a non-low hydrogen electrode are part of the analysis that has to be done.

I mentioned that on average we review 30,000 welding procedures a year. One of the things we always check is what consumable or electrode they are using and if it is appropriate for that material based on the guidance of the standard and, in some cases, based on best practice. We may recommend, ``The standard does allow it, but here are some of the risks that you might incur if you do that. We would recommend you look in a different direction.''

Senator Demers: I am in school here; I am replacing Senator Johnson tonight. You said you bring $5 billion to the economy and you hire 300,000 people. That is huge.

Can you outline the new technology, or has it changed over time? You talked about safety. It is a very dangerous job — not that I know about it, but it is from what I hear and you have said. Has the technology changed over the years?

Mr. Martin: Yes, absolutely.

Before I start, I will answer your question about the $5 billion and 300,000 people. The reason for that is because welding is everywhere; from pacemakers that people have, to the cars that they drive, to the airplanes they fly in, to the bridges they go over, welding is there. It is a horizontal industry; it cuts across everything that is built.

In terms of technology, things have changed a lot. There have been new welding processes, which are new ways of joining materials. We talked about stick welding. Now it has evolved into gas tungsten arc, gas metal arc and robotic applications.

The materials that are being joined have changed; they have progressed. The properties they possess have vastly improved, but it has also introduced welding challenges. The consumables we use — the filler wires that we melt off to join them — have changed. The techniques that individuals have to employ to weld those materials have changed. Factors like preheat, which might not have been an issue in the past for traditional steels, are now a critical issue. Any upset in the heat input that is put into a joint can change the metallurgical properties and can result in failure.

The equipment that people are using to weld has vastly changed. In the past, you would have, essentially, what was a large transformer with a crank on it, and it was completely manual. Now you have equipment that has more powerful computers than are sitting on your desk. They are completely computer controlled, where the operator can punch in ``I want this material, at this thickness, et cetera, et cetera,'' and all the variables are done for him.

There are also new technologies that control the behaviour of the welding arc. Arcs can be pulsed from high current to low current in milliseconds, and that creates better, faster welding, more reliable welding, and welding in positions and situations that would never be dreamed of in the past can now be handled.

There are new technologies being developed all the time to deal with new materials and to make the industry more efficient.

As mentioned, the challenge for industry is keeping up with that. The standards have to keep up with it, but the industry needs to keep up with it, as well. The challenge is that it is easy to buy the equipment, but then they have to train the individuals to show that they are competent.

Senator Demers: There has been talk — and certainly you will clarify this — that at one point there was a shortage of welders.

Mr. Martin: Yes.

Senator Demers: It has to be a good-paying job because it is a dangerous job and a specific job. Not everybody could go up on top of a bridge or different places. How do you bring more people in, because a lot of people are looking for jobs? How do you bring them into a job that could earn a good living and it is very professional?

Mr. Martin: I could talk about this for hours, but I will not.

Being in the industry, we recognize that the opportunities for skilled trades, and welding in particular, are enormous. We are dealing with some history, though. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, colleges and high schools got out of the skilled trades training program, generally speaking. It still existed to a certain extent, but it was, quite frankly, cheaper to replace welding equipment and machine shops with computers. There was a vision at that time that we would all be sitting behind desks on computers and it would be a total service economy.

That has not happened, and now we are facing that shortage because of the aging population.

Luckily, colleges and high schools have responded to that. In the past 10 years, they have put a new emphasis on it. They are recognizing that we have this shortage. The problem is that it takes some time to catch up.

The other problem we are dealing with is the attitudes of parents and students. We know that there was a study done by Skills Canada. If I get my numbers right, they say that 40 per cent of the jobs in the next 20 years will be skills- related but only about 35 per cent of students have considered skilled trades as a career. Then when you get to parents, there are about 24 per cent who have said it is something that they would consider with their child.

It is really the wrong perception about the opportunities. It is seen as a dirty and dangerous job. There are situations that could be argued it is dirtier and more dangerous. However, for the most part, there is a strong safety program. The equipment itself is much safer than it was in the past. Just like any task where there is risk, with the right steps you can fully protect the worker. The fact is that with technology, if you are a student who likes to work on the iPad and work with computers and programming, there are careers in welding where you can leverage those skills.

Through the Canadian Welding Association, our advocacy arm, we have created two videos at the cost of over $100,000 that get circulated to every high school in this country. We provide information packs for guidance counsellors to show them the opportunities. We show them the statistics of what the need is, but that is not enough. We have to show the students that there can be a rewarding career out of that.

We have been working hard since we started that organization in 2008 to get that message out, because the opportunities are enormous. Once we get right to the students and right to the teachers and the parents, we can show them that message. However, it is something they have not considered. They feel it is low paying and that there is no progression. The fact is that there are guys in work camps in northern Alberta who are pulling down $100,000 in six months doing welding. Dollar signs light up in people's eyes, and you can get their attention. In addition, there are opportunities in all parts of the country with the shipbuilding projects that we have and the mining projects in northern Ontario and northern Quebec. There is a huge demand for welders. It is a skilled trade that is not going away.

The Deputy Chair: Do you want to mention that $100,000 in six months again while you are on TV? It is free advertising.

Mr. Martin: You have to pass my test first, though.

The Deputy Chair: I am thinking about all the people watching who have kids who need jobs.

Senator Seidman: Mr. Martin, is there any recordkeeping on the incidence of leaks or other problems with welded pipes?

Mr. Martin: Not through the Canadian Welding Bureau. We keep records of failures in the industries that we serve primarily or historically in the structural steel industry. My understanding is that there are records available through the regulatory bodies, but it is not something that we have access to as an. organization.

Senator Seidman: You are not aware of the kind of recordkeeping that is kept or who does it?

Mr. Martin: I am not personally aware of how records are kept within the pipeline industry or what level of access there is to them.

Senator Seidman: The Canadian Welding Bureau is an organization that provides welding certification and education throughout Canada, and in other countries as well. Are there any other organizations that do the same as you do in Canada, or is this your jurisdiction?

Mr. Martin: We are the only organization that provides the services that we do on the certification and testing side. Obviously on the training side there are a number of organizations, but on the certification and testing side we are the only body in Canada that provides that on a national basis. Within the provinces, on things like pressure vessels and piping there are organizations such as the TSSA in Ontario that provide a little bit of what we do, but in a very focused and narrow scope. We are the only one that provides it on a national level and on the wider scope of CSA standards.

Senator Seidman: That is helpful.

I am a little confused by something in your presentation. You said that if the integrity of welds on our national pipeline infrastructure can be demonstrated through standards and oversight, this will increase the confidence of the public in their safety.

Mr. Martin: Yes.

Senator Seidman: Could you explain what that means? Does it mean that there are not standards and oversight?

Mr. Martin: To be clear, there are standards — we have a world class standard for pipeline construction and inspection — and there is oversight. Our role is to offer our help and assistance to try to improve that system.

You cannot look at a weld and tell whether it is good or bad. There are some visual clues. I am not a welder, but I can make something with some of the new equipment that looks really nice on the outside when there is really nothing going on on the inside.

In our opinion, to have a reliable system of oversight you need to make sure you have a standard that ensures that those three components are in place: qualified people; qualified managers, if you will, or internal oversight in the company; and that recipe. With all those things you can greatly increase the chances of having reliable welds.

We are not suggesting that the standards we have in place right now are not appropriate. They are some of the best in the world. We are not suggesting that the level of oversight is inadequate. We are suggesting that it is an area of focus to look at. Is our oversight adequate; is it consistently applied in all jurisdictions; and is there a role for a national body, the CWB or someone else, to ensure that there is consistency? Again, the feedback that we receive from the industries that we serve is asking why this national program cannot exist for fabricating a pressure vessel, which right now is a provincial jurisdiction. They see the benefits and the efficiency of the program that we have. It allows them to hire welders from anywhere in the country and for welders to work anywhere in the country, because they follow one common standard.

We believe that there is an opportunity to look at that as we look at how we deal with pipelines in this country and to leverage some of those successes in that system as well.

Senator Seidman: I appreciate the explanation you have given. I think there is no question that the more insurance we have of pipeline safety and the better standardization and oversight of the integrity of the pipelines we have the better.

You would like to work with the NEB on ensuring adherence to standards and oversight. How would you be able to do that?

Mr. Martin: There are a number of things. Obviously our strength is our national coverage, our welding expertise and our knowledge of standards. We have had some initial contact with the NEB and are in the process of setting up discussions with them as we speak.

We can provide a number of services. One is the recipe for an independent review of welding procedures. We have an on-staff group of experts who spend their entire careers doing this work, so we can assist the NEB and other organizations by doing independent reviews to make sure that things are being done right when they do not have the expertise or the capacity.

We can provide an independent review of people who say they are certified welders qualified for certain processes. A huge part of our role is to ensure that those claims are appropriate and valid.

We do over 12,000 on site shop audits every year looking specifically at the welding process. From a black and white perspective we look at whether rules are being followed, but we also look at opportunities for companies to do their work better.

There are a number of things we can do through testing, through third-party review of procedures and through auditing on behalf of the regulators or the owners. We have that network in place from coast to coast already, and we can easily adapt that to help serve the pipeline industry. Again, we love what this committee is doing because it is about ensuring that our infrastructure is safe. Our mission since 1947 has been to ensure the safety of the public. We are focused on one little area, which is welding, because that is what we do best. We are looking for the opportunity to take the system we have in place for this huge cross-section of industry and see how we can help make this specific industry better.

The Deputy Chair: Once again, I encourage you to repeat that; ``We love this committee.'' Thank you.

Senator Brown: I am interested in the bevel of the pipe. When you bring it together, you have to bevel the edge, and I would like to know how you decide that the welder, whether it is robotic or human, will get as close as possible to the inside of the bevel to melt it and then make it fuse with the first pass. From there on you add the passes until you have entirely filled it up.

I imagine that you have a graph of some kind for each size of pipe. Obviously a 32-inch pipe will have much thicker steel than a 6- or 7-inch pipe would. How do you measure that? Is robotics able to do that?

Mr. Martin: The standards provide guidance on this, and it is usually a balance between efficiency and accessibility. The larger your bevel is, the more material you have to put in, so the slower it is to weld, but it also can cause more distortion in the weld because you are putting more heat in. You can shrink that bevel up to 10 degrees on each side, but that may mean that you have fusion problems at the root of that weld. The standards usually define the ideal bevel based on certain sizes and diameter of pipe and situations and positions of welding.

You also have to consider the land. There is a bevel and there is a little unbeveled part, so that is critical in the welding procedure. If there is too much, you will not get penetration in the root; if there is not enough, you could blow through and end up with a hole in the bottom of your weld.

Senator Brown: That is major.

Mr. Martin: That is right. It is what they call the root face.

The key is that before welds are made in production, they must be qualified. The standards typically allow some variance from the fabricator, or the person doing the work on the root face the land, and the bevel angle. They just have to demonstrate a welding procedure that is proven to be effective and then the welder's qualification — remember I talked about different levels and scenarios — also has to match up with the type of weld being made.

There is not necessarily an ideal situation because it depends on who you are. The welder wants bigger because so he has better access and the welding engineer wants less because he wants a more efficient weld and less issues with heat input. As long as the fabricator can prove, following the allowed range in the standard, that they have this welding procedure — which is independently reviewed and then normally procedure tested, so it is a mock-up — and they demonstrate it will work and prove that the weld can be done, there is really not a hard and fast rule that thou shalt have a 45-degree bevel. There is an allowance to have that.

On the question about robotics, the same question would apply. When we consider a welding procedure, we consider the mode of application, whether it is by human being or robot. However, the rules around developing the procedure and access and qualification are exactly the same. You may be able to shrink that bevel angle on a robotic application and produce a consistent weld because you can program the robot to do exactly the position that you want, but you still have to go through the process. Using technology does not waive the requirement to justify and prove that this weld can be done correctly. It always comes back to that qualification test.

Senator Brown: There is one other thing I am very interested in. My wife and I were fundraisers for Olds College in Alberta for four years, and we were lucky enough to run up against an MLA who wanted to have a new school for children in grades 1 to 12. As a result, we got together and put Olds College and the 9 to 12 grades on the same campus. They could actually get skilled while they were still in grades 9 to 11 or 12 if they did not want to go on to university. Do you know if other colleges are doing that?

Mr. Martin: At the younger ages?

Senator Brown: Where they are bringing on people who decided early on that they would not go to university, but they would like to have some skills. They do a number of those at Olds College, including mechanics and welding, as well as a number of other ones.

Mr. Martin: I am not aware of any that deal with that young an age, although dozens of high schools across the country have programs in place where welding can start as early as grade 10. Typically because there is a safety element, and I cannot speak for the boards of education, there must be a certain level of maturity. We do have programs and control environments that start as early as grade 10.

Typically people get the welding bug in high school. That is where we are trying to start. If, by the time they graduate, they have not been exposed they are usually looking in other directions. We work with colleges as well, but we work at the high school level to try and get the bug in their ear about welding as a viable career choice. We encourage them to go to the next step, which is college, but in many cases they will go right out to a union and get their qualification. In some cases, if they get sufficient training in high school they can go right to the workforce. However, there are other routes they can go to get an industry-recognized certificate and bypass a more formal education at college.

Senator Brown: We know a woman who became a welder and then became so good at it that within a couple of years she was teaching welding. I hope there will be more women coming to the job. Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: I have a couple of quick questions. One of the risks in pipelines is that they can be broken by landslides and sloughing. What breaks? Is it the weld or is it the pipe?

Mr. Martin: That is a good question. If a weld is done correctly and the filler metal matching up with the base material, the weld should be the last thing that fails. It is designed, typically, that the weld is stronger than the surrounding base metal.

The Deputy Chair: You mentioned in your opening comments that a national training curriculum was desirable. It seems like it is something that would be obvious. Why has it not happened and who should be leading it?

Mr. Martin: We hold a national educators' forum each and every year. They have identified this as one of their primary concerns. Part of the challenge is that education is by and large a provincially controlled thing. It has been very difficult to get the different provinces together to agree on the approach. We have some provinces with excellent programs and some provinces with programs that were good but have not kept up to date. We are working independently to try and get the groups at the different provincial and college levels to work together and come up with a curriculum.

As I mentioned, the welding trades and trades in general were neglected for a number of years. It was not high on the radar and it is really only within the last 10 years where we have realized we have an aging population. In 2014, we hit the peak and we do not have a bunch of people coming in behind to fill those roles. Now we are stepping back. We are trying to take a leadership role to say we have the material, we have the contacts and we work with people. We do not put it together all on our own. We work with industry groups and we are just looking for that mandate to say go ahead and we want to use this material. Industry has spoken. They have told us that the quality of welders varies from province to province. The level of training varies from province to province.

As we have more labour mobility, people are going west and working. There are a lot people there from other provinces and it comes to light much more than it did in the past where people tended to go to school, be trained and work locally. It is changing in this country to go where the work goes.

The Deputy Chair: It might be that a province like Alberta that needs welders from everywhere would be a champion of something like that.

Mr. Martin: In Fort McMurray you will meet people from every province in this country doing all types of skilled trades.

The Deputy Chair: We have one minute left over, so I will use that to say that I hope Mr. Martin found this process to be as pleasant as I suggested it would be at the outset. I know that I can speak for my colleagues when I say that we have certainly found it very enjoyable and informative to have you here. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Mr. Martin: Thank you. We appreciate the work you are doing.

The Deputy Chair: In what is going to be a marvel of parliamentary procedure, I will not suspend. We will do a quick or soft transition, as we say in this business, and ask Mr. McFadyen to replace Mr. Martin. We are getting you a glass of water. We never acknowledge the work of the pages, but we should. Ross is an excellent page. Thank you, Ross.

Mr. McFadyen, thank you. I welcome you and everyone else to the second half of this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. With pleasure, I am introducing our witness from the Western Canadian Spill Services, Mr. Alan McFadyen, who is the President and Chief Operating Officer. I understand that he comes from Calgary, so he has made an effort to be here and we appreciate that greatly.

Mr. McFadyen, please go ahead with any opening comments and then we will ask questions.

Alan McFadyen, President and Chief Operating Officer, Western Canadian Spill Services: Thank you, honourable senators, for inviting Western Canadian Spill Services to your meeting.

Western Canadian Spill Services is a cost-effective model to supplement the upstream petroleum industry's oil spill preparedness program in Western Canada. WCSS was incorporated in 1996, following the amalgamation of the then- regional group PROSCRAC, the Prairie Regional Oil Spill Containment and Recovery Advisory Committee, and the independent co-ops established in 1972. Our role is to assist members to comply with spill preparedness requirements that are outlined in provincial directives, and to help prepare our members and provide support so that they can safely and effectively respond to an oil spill.

We are not a spill response contractor.

The directives that are framed under CAN/CSA-Z731 say that an operator must assess the risk that their operations pose to the environment and ensure they have the capability of dealing with spills, including worst-case scenarios. Our role is to supplement that. Many of our member companies, particularly the large pipeline companies, have comprehensive, integrated spill preparedness programs that certainly meet the requirements set out in the legislation without being WCSS members. However, they elect to do that to support their program.

We are a non-profit company incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. The company is owned and directed by its shareholders, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, and pipeline companies represented by Kinder Morgan Canada and Enbridge pipelines. We also have an independent member.

We are a volunteer-based organization and have no employees. Day-to-day management, co-op administration, equipment contracting, training instructors and other service providers are hired on a contractual basis.

In terms of our organizational structure, we have a board of directors; a management group of which I am a part; an executive subcommittee that represents industry in our area; and each of the 18 co-ops that we have also have volunteer chairpersons from our member companies; steering committees; and initial spill response teams that, again, are volunteers from various member companies in the area.

WCSS has approximately 600 members, which essentially are all the licencees of oil and gas operations in Alberta, northeast B.C. and Area 1 in Saskatchewan. Our annual budget is about $1.7 million. A membership fee is paid of that $1.7 million based on a cost per well and kilometres of pipeline.

The resources that we provide to our membership include oil spill contingency manuals, which are unique to each of our 18 co-ops. We also have equipment that is available to our members. In your package, you will see a map that has some circles on it. If you radiate out from our regional areas — 170 kilometres — that covers our entire jurisdictional area. That does not include the one or more initial spill response units that we have in each of our co-ops.

We also have specialized equipment that can move back and forth between co-ops, including boats — I think we have 25 boats, either jet boats or air boats — wildlife response units; winter units for dealing with spills where there is a water body with an ice sheet; and specialized skimmers and additional containment boom.

We have a total of 32 OSCAR units, which is the slang term for oil spill containment and recovery units. Eleven are regional and the other 21 are at the co-op level.

We have a training program where we conduct a minimum of one training exercise in each of the 18 oil spill co-ops. We also have a series of open registration oil-spill-related training programs that we offer to our members and others. We also do a lot of contract training for our members, primarily focusing on land-based spills, spills in water courses, equipment deployment exercises and that kind of thing.

We have a field improvement program. One of our goals is to continually improve the industry's response capability. To that effect, we have an annual program where we look primarily at equipment and techniques. This last year, we focused on containment and recovery of heavy oil, and we are currently looking at issue of sunken and submerged oil, for which we hope to develop some best practices.

We have an education and communication program where we participate in community events and industry trade shows. For the exercises we hold in each of our co-ops, we invite the local media. We are fortunate in getting very good publicity with those training programs.

We have special projects that we get involved in. We also maintain our website and have other types of promotional materials.

WCSS provides spill response support to its members. Again, we are not a spill contractor; that is our members' responsibility. If they have a spill, they are deemed to be the responsible party and they take full liability for managing that spill.

We have a pretty good track record of assisting our members with initial spill response. We have volunteer spill response teams in each of our 18 oil spill co-ops that will provide on-site assistance at the request of the responsible party. We help them with the identification of resources, getting spill equipment out to their staging areas and the provision of certified boat operators. We also provide advice and guidance, and communications assistance.

That concludes my opening remarks.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you. That was very helpful, Mr. McFadyen. We will start with questions.

Senator Seidman: Mr. McFadyen, I have a question about the volunteers. We had representation from Saskatchewan last week, I think it was, and I inquired about this then because it was said that the co-op uses volunteers.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes.

Senator Seidman: What is the principle? Are they trained in some way like volunteer firefighters? I would like to understand the concept of volunteers for this.

Mr. McFadyen: The volunteers are people right from our board of directors through to the steering committees and the initial spill response teams in the co-op. The initial spill response teams have a minimum level of oil spill training that we provide; they must have certification on our baseline spill responder training program. They are involved in all of the exercises in a geographic area in terms of being the guys who do the most work at the co-op exercises. They are trained to deploy equipment in surface water — that is our primary focus with that group.

Senator Seidman: Are you able to get sufficient numbers of people to volunteer? It is substantial time, presumably, to be trained and then be on-call in this way.

Mr. McFadyen: We primarily look at a rotation basis in each of the areas; member companies provide volunteers and if that volunteer moves on or drops off for some reason, then we go to our members in that area and ask for additional volunteers. It has not been a problem to date. We have about 200 volunteers in total.

Senator Seidman: If it is requested, you provide support; is that correct?

Mr. McFadyen: That is correct.

Senator Seidman: If it is requested by the company involved in an accident of some sort, you would then provide help. Could you tell us what the request rate might be? How often do you get called in to help?

Mr. McFadyen: In the province of Alberta, for example, there are about 1,200 spills reported on an annual basis. Those are spills that are two cubic metres or greater on lease or anything off lease. The majority of those 1,200 spills are handled fairly efficiently by the responsible party. We average about 10 spills a year where our members require our resources and assistance with spills.

Senator Seidman: Would there be unusual circumstances that would require your members to be called upon by these companies? Why would these companies ask you to assist? Is it isolated locations where you have equipment?

Mr. McFadyen: No, it is really the magnitude of the spill that drives it. There was a pipeline rupture last year into the Red Deer River in Alberta. The company requested our assistance with locating the spill, with bringing equipment on site, with providing certified boat operators, and with providing them with advice and guidance on equipment they should have on site.

Senator Seidman: Would it be a small company that did not have the resources to clean up?

Mr. McFadyen: Yes, it could be a small company that needs assistance with initial response.

Senator Wallace: Mr. McFadyen, I want to ensure that I understand how the spill response regime fits together. The pipeline companies are obligated to have a spill response plan.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes.

Senator Wallace: As part of that plan they have to show that they have access to spill response equipment and qualified personnel that can respond.

Mr. McFadyen: That is correct.

Senator Wallace: Their personnel have to be capable of not only performing the spill response functions but also of actually directing the spill response. What you do and when you do it would be critically important, I would think.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes.

Senator Wallace: Your role is to back-fill the equipment requirement that a pipeline company must have as part of its plan. You are a source of equipment that they can call upon.

Mr. McFadyen: That is correct. We are really the second line of defence. The first line of defence is their own internal resources, which would be their people and their equipment to deal with a spill.

Senator Wallace: Depending on the magnitude of the spill, they may be able to handle it with their own resources, but if it is beyond that or if it is in a location where their equipment is not in close proximity, they might call upon the co-op.

Mr. McFadyen: That is correct, or they may need specialized equipment that they do not have.

Senator Wallace: As far as personnel are concerned, you said that your co-op provides certified boat operators and may provide advice around the spill response equipment. That is it; you are not providing personnel who in any way direct or give advice as to how to deal with the spill.

Mr. McFadyen: That is correct, although we have been called on to provide assistance. Our operational manager, for example, would typically go out during the initial spill response and provide some support. The company might ask us for links to subject matter experts that could be used at the spill, and we would provide those referrals.

Senator Wallace: Does your organization exist because each of the pipeline companies must have spill response capability and, rather than each of them buying their own equipment, it makes economic sense and is more cost effective for them to have a pooled response that they can call upon as needed? Your members are the actual pipeline companies themselves, is that correct?

Mr. McFadyen: That is correct. All the companies, all the licencees, are obligated to assess the risk that their operation poses to the environment. A large number of our smaller members would not have the capacity that a pipeline company has, but because their risks are much lower the initial spill response units or equipment that we provide is adequate. They would not have to have that kind of infrastructure in place. The large pipeline companies obviously have higher risks and would have more capacity.

Senator Wallace: Since pipeline companies have the responsibility to respond to an incident, where the spill response equipment and personnel is located is critically important. I am sure that time is critical in those cases.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes.

Senator Wallace: Where your co-op decides to locate its equipment, what equipment it has and in what qualities would be important, I would think. Does the co-op make those decisions, or are they made in conjunction with the pipeline companies? In areas where there might be a higher risk if a problem occurred they would want equipment in closer proximity, I presume. Do you determine that or do you work together?

Mr. McFadyen: The answer lies in all of the examples that you gave. We look at operating areas and the types of operations in the areas. We involve the co-op steering committees that operate in those areas and jointly make the decision on the location of the equipment.

Again, I am certain that there is no other geographic area in the world that has the kind of coverage we have. It is really well covered in terms of the spill response equipment.

Senator Wallace: Do you feel comfortable with the quantity and quality of spill response equipment that you have that is available to your members? Obviously the public wants the assurance that these matters can be handled and that environmental impacts would be minimal. Are you satisfied with what your organization has today?

Mr. McFadyen: Completely. Again, the area that we cover is Alberta, northeast B.C. and only one area in Saskatchewan. In our area, we are very comfortable and continue to improve.

Senator Patterson: I am amazed at what seems to be a modest budget of $1.7 million annually, I think. Once your services are engaged, do companies pay for the cost of deploying your equipment, which income would be in addition to your core operating budget?

Mr. McFadyen: The budget really provides access to the equipment for our members. We do not charge them rent, but they are responsible to replace consumables and repair or replace damaged equipment. We do have a program under which we can rent equipment to non-members. An example of that would be the derailment in 2005 in Lake Wabamun. The rail company was not a member of WCSS, but there was oil in the water and they were calling for help, so we rented them equipment to get started with that spill response.

Senator Patterson: Speaking of companies that are not members of WCSS, do most operators of wells, pipelines and related facilities in your area join? They do not have to. Can you give us an idea of what the take-up is?

Mr. McFadyen: The directives in the provinces essentially say that licencees of wells or pipelines must either be a member of an oil spill co-op or have an approved plan with the government, and that approved plan includes not only having an emergency response plan but also having their own equipment, conducting their own annual training exercises, and satisfying the government that they have a reasonable state of preparedness.

All licencees of wells or pipelines, trucking companies, rail companies, or other transporters of hydrocarbons only have access at our discretion and through a rental basis. Our position that if there is oil in water and a company needs resources, we are there to help.

Senator Patterson: What is the proportion of people who are members of the co-op compared to those who are not?

Mr. McFadyen: There are 600 to 605 licencees in our jurisdictional area, and they are all members. A handful of members are not in good standing for various reasons. They are either in the process of becoming bankrupt or there is some other reason for not being in compliance.

Senator Patterson: I am intrigued by your techniques for dealing with oil on ice. Can you describe that, please?

Mr. McFadyen: Sure. I will talk about two situations. One is on a river where there is an ice sheet and there is a pipeline rupture or for some reason oil has been spilled and is migrating downstream below that ice sheet. If we create a trench or a slot in the ice, that oil will surface and provide us with an opportunity for containment recovery. We have done that many times. It is a proven technique. What we do, essentially, is to assess the weight-bearing capacity of that ice and determine what kind of equipment we can put on the ice to create containment slots or trenches. Of course, ice safety is a big part of that process.

Senator Brown: You have 18 co-ops, if I am correct. Are they operating individually, or do they have to go through you as the top dog, so to speak?

Mr. McFadyen: The co-ops are like business units of Western Canadian Spill Services. They work under our umbrella. We develop the policies that they follow. They have a voice, at our level, through their co-op chairman. We have annual meetings. We also have an executive subcommittee, on which there is one representative for each zone, with two or more co-ops in each zone. They have a voice from the field level right through to the board of directors.

Senator Brown: Of the spills you have mentioned that you have had, most are not pipeline breaks. Some are trucks and valves and just leaks and spills.

Mr. McFadyen: That is correct: wells, facility leaks.

Senator Brown: Is that the biggest percentage?

Mr. McFadyen: There are actually a very small number of spills where hydrocarbon enters surface water. It averages about 10 a year.

Senator Brown: Is the main percentage of your work pipeline breaks or this other collection of different things?

Mr. McFadyen: It is for all of those types of operations. Our training programs do not focus on the origin of the spill but on how to manage it if it gets into surface water or if it is a land-based spill.

Senator Brown: The reason I keep asking is because we have been told that a couple of breaks a year is pretty much what a pipeline will do. Everything else has to be an accident of some other sort.

Mr. McFadyen: Small spills. Everything off-lease is reportable. Again, we are the upstream petroleum industry. There are also refined product spills that would be small in nature.

Senator Brown: Thank you. That is what I wanted to know.

The Deputy Chair: I do not know what you said in the last two minutes, Mr. McFadyen, but you doubled the number of questioners on my list. That is a good sign.

Senator McCoy: You were directly involved in 20 incidents last year.

Mr. McFadyen: No, 10 to 14 incidents last year.

Senator McCoy: Our researchers read your December newsletter, and they reported to us that it was 14 from known perpetrators and 6 from unknown sources. That would make 20.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes. The 14 spills would be where WCSS resources were dispatched. We were involved in 6 spills of unknown origin.

Senator McCoy: My first question goes back a bit to what Senator Brown was just asking you. We have been puzzling over the difference in transportation between pipelines, railroads, trucks and boats. Obviously, we will not be talking boats because we are talking Alberta, Saskatchewan and eastern B.C., so I would like to know how many of those 14 came from each of those types of transportation — truck, rail and pipe. You were going to tell me that not all of them were transportation, but that is the number one.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes.

Senator McCoy: What are the rest of them? Can you quantify that for us?

Mr. McFadyen: The spills that we would have been involved with in 2012 would be either pipeline-related or from a wellhead or a facility.

Senator McCoy: Can you get us the breakdown? You will know which ones were pipeline oriented.

Mr. McFadyen: I could provide that for you, but I do not have it with me.

Senator McCoy: If you could provide that through our clerk, we would be appreciative. You are saying that none of them were railroad or truck.

Mr. McFadyen: That is correct. Rail companies are not members of Western Canadian Spill Services, and we, quite frankly, do not track their spills. We have, in the past, assisted them. Again, the Wabamun spill in 2005 would be an example of that.

Senator McCoy: We will get to those of unknown origin in a minute, the UFOs of the spill business.

How did that number of spills compare to years prior? It does seem to me, as an Albertan, that we have had more and more spills of a larger and larger nature in the last five years. We keep hearing about pipeline companies that I have never even dreamt of before, and then Red Deer and, as you say, Wabamun happened. That was huge.

Mr. McFadyen: Spills of unknown origin are typically truck related. It is an illegal dump of some sort. A company or an operator will back up into the ditch and flush out his tank or whatever. If the regulatory agency can tie that event in with a licensed facility, they will hold that licensee responsible, and they will happily do the cleanup.

In 2012, there were six events where they could not show that it was connected to a licensee's facility, and we have a budget in place where we will assist the lead regulatory agency with cleanup of those spills. We certainly do not take any liability, but we are there to assist the regulator and do so, up to a certain level. If that budget level is exceeded, then the government looks for other funding resources.

Since 1996, we have never exceeded our budget. That six is fairly high. In 2011, we had no spills of unknown origin, so it fluctuates.

Senator McCoy: What about over the last, say, 5 or 10 years in terms of the known sources. You had 14 last year.

Mr. McFadyen: Again, that is a little higher than the average. Usually we average about 10 a year that we are involved in.

Senator McCoy: Are they getting bigger?

Mr. McFadyen: Well, last year's spill on the Red Deer River was a big spill, 475,000 litres. That is not typical, although five years earlier there was a spill into the same river system from a pipeline rupture. It is very atypical to have big spills like that. Again, we had Wabamun in 2005, so every five or six years we have been seeing spills of that magnitude.

Senator McCoy: That was a railcar, though.

Mr. McFadyen: For many years before that we were seeing none or very few. The Pine River spill in northeast B.C. —

Senator McCoy: I have one last question. How many litres are there in a barrel? These things get reported, and I cannot even keep track. It is all different designations. How many litres in a barrel? Do you know?

Senator Patterson: Twenty-five gallons, right?

Senator McCoy: Twenty-five gallons?

Senator Brown: It depends on whether you are talking about an American barrel or a Canadian barrel.

Senator McCoy: I am talking about a barrel of oil.

The Deputy Chair: I am trying to think of the conversion. I think it is 4.6 litres to a gallon.

Mr. McFadyen: I could do the conversion; 475,000 litres equates to about 3,000 barrels of oil.

Senator McCoy: Thank you very much. You will get us that information, though, will you not?

He will get us some more information.

The Deputy Chair: Yes, thank you; you can talk to the clerk.

Senator McCoy: His time comparison as well, I think.

The Deputy Chair: If you want to jot that down or make that clear afterward, that would be great.

Senator Demers, please.

Senator Demers: This may be a little bit over the top, but when you were talking about all of that, I was thinking of the BP spill. It was a different country and a major situation, but how equipped are you for a major disaster? What about a boat transporting oil? Are you equipped to deal with that? We all know what happened with BP. It is still going on. Are you prepared for that? You said that you had never dealt with a major one. Can it happen, first of all, and are you prepared for that?

Mr. McFadyen: We are an inland oil spill co-op. A group on the West Coast of Canada, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, is equipped to deal with offshore spills.

In our view, in the worst-case scenarios we have dealt with — one was last year in the Red Deer River — we were on site within three hours of the spill being reported. Our initial spill response team helped the company dispatching equipment to the site. We had contractors and lots of equipment on site. We were there at five o'clock in the morning.

Senator Demers: You were prepared.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes, we have a really good track record. We are pretty comfortable that we can deal with worst-case scenarios for inland spills.

Senator Seidman: Western Canadian Spill Services operates through the annual membership fees of industry, if I understand correctly?

Mr. McFadyen: We have a membership fee formula. We bill licensees of wells and pipelines on an annual basis automatically, and so we are not part of industry association funding.

Senator Seidman: Right. In the written material you provided, you talk about small-scale research and development projects.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes.

Senator Seidman: How do you finance these small-scale research and development projects?

Mr. McFadyen: We have an internal budget. It is a small budget. Really we focus more on research and development around equipment and techniques as opposed to effects in behaviour, for example, of hydrocarbon in different situations. Other groups do that.

Senator Seidman: Could you give us an example of one of these projects?

Mr. McFadyen: We are currently looking at heavy oil skimmers. We tested a skimmer that was designed in Alberta. We were looking at some modifications to that skimmer so that it worked a little better for our responders. We have done work on improving techniques for containment recovery of hydrocarbon in ice conditions. We have been looking at different kinds of containment boom, inflatable boom versus the standard boom that we currently use.

Senator Seidman: It is very applied and very pragmatic.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes.

Senator Seidman: That is really truly wonderful and, frankly, impressive.

Mr. McFadyen: Thank you.

Senator Seidman: How do you integrate the new technology that you discover or the new equipment that you would discover in this research and development into your operations, or do you?

Mr. McFadyen: Yes, we have annual sessions on best practices. We share that with the co-op chairmen at their annual co-op chairmen's meeting. We would integrate information that we learn into our oil spill contingency manual and in our training programs, and we would share that information at our annual exercises where we reach about 1,500 field personnel a year in our training program.

Senator Seidman: That is great. Thank you. It sounds to me like you are a model for large industry.

Mr. McFadyen: Thank you.

Senator Seidman: The fact that you do this kind of applied research and then integrate it into your operations is really impressive.

Mr. McFadyen: Thanks.

Senator Patterson: This all does indeed sound impressive. I guess I do feel compelled to ask, though, do you track the recovery, your success rate in recovering spills, spilled hydrocarbons; and, secondly, do you dispose or remediate or recycle the recovered hydrocarbons? I have two questions there.

Mr. McFadyen: Yes. Tracking recovery rates is very difficult, and that number is not easily accessible. What tends to happen in a river system when there is a spill is we focus on the containment recovery area or areas. It might involve one or more containment sites. We have a pretty good sense of the effectiveness at those containment sites. We are pretty good at controlling oil and not allowing any past our containment points, but when the oil is spilled into a river system, first of all, it starts to weather. Large amounts of that hydrocarbon, depending on the type of hydrocarbon, begin to evaporate into the atmosphere. A lot of it is stranded on the shoreline and a lot of it ends up in back eddies and circulates. When we get it under control at a containment site so that it is no longer migrating downstream, the challenge then is going back upstream and dealing with that oil that has been stranded or is in back eddies. We are involved in that or our contractors are involved in that, but again, that is a company-specific problem that they have to deal with.

Senator Patterson: Can you hazard a guess as to what your recovery rate would be? I suppose it depends on whether the spill is on land or in water.

Mr. McFadyen: There are a bunch of variables; you are right. It depends on the current velocity and size of the river. For a smaller river with a current velocity that does not exceed 2 or 3 kilometres an hour, we are very effective. We have had a lot of practice in setting boom angles and with weir skimmers and drum skimmers. We do a good job there. Larger rivers can be a bigger challenge, in flood conditions, fast water. It becomes more difficult to deal with and recovery rates are much less.

In terms of percentages, I could not hazard a guess, although I can say, again, in smaller rivers with a slower current, we are pretty successful.

Senator Patterson: What about the recycling part of it?

Mr. McFadyen: Again, that is the responsible parties. They manage that waste. We do have an open air incinerator that is designed to deal with oily debris on site. That is being used at a lot of spills, primarily for land-based spills or spills in wet forested sites where there is a lot of oily debris. We can in situ burn. Other than that, the company primarily transports that material to approved landfill sites.

Senator Brown: Can you give us an idea of the percentage of oil passing through pipelines that is likely to result in a spill? Are we talking something over 10 per cent, or are we talking about a very small percentage of oil?

The Deputy Chair: That is a very good question.

Mr. McFadyen: We are talking about a small percentage, but I do not have that number. I may be able to get that for you from provincial statistics, and I would certainly be prepared to do that.

Senator Brown: I would like to hear it because we spend a lot of time trying to find out how bad spills are and how much they are, but we do not have figures of the exact number of barrels or litres that go through for a year as opposed to the percentage that you people have to work with in spills.

Mr. McFadyen: There are statistics available around pipeline incidents, and I will do my best to try and get a number for you. I am not sure that is possible, but there are statistics available through the provincial ministries that I can get my hands on.

Senator Brown: Thank you. I ask because I think we allow the industry to look bad sometimes if we do not see the percentages that are actually going through the system and then think probably that there are more spills than what there really are.

The Deputy Chair: For the record, we did some calculations here: The Red Deer spill at 427,000 litres would be about 2,700 barrels. It is about 159 litres per barrel, Senator McCoy.

Senator McCoy: Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: I would like to wrap up a couple of things. Your members or the people who subscribe to you are pipeline and upstream oil companies, but you do participate or help as you can with, say, a train spill or a truck spill. I do not know if I understood, though: Would you help with offshore spills? Would that be outside your purview completely?

Mr. McFadyen: I would never say ``never.'' Our board is saying that if there is oil in the water and we can help, we will attempt to do so.

The Deputy Chair: Do trucking, train and shipping companies have an equivalent to your organization?

Mr. McFadyen: Those companies have spill preparedness programs. I am not sure that I would say they are equivalent in terms of equipment coverage, but they do have spill preparedness programs with equipment and resources to deal with spills.

The Deputy Chair: One of the points made by the Office of the Auditor General's environmental auditor, Scott Vaughan, in his recent report was that there is some question about how well certain government agencies at the federal level, at least, actually monitor and follow up on spills plans. I know that you have a relationship to spills planning and constructing plans for various companies. Do you get involved in the audit process at all? Do they consult you or do you provide them with information or assistance?

Mr. McFadyen: No; very rarely. That is a company responsibility and the requirements are outlined in provincial directives. The plan that we have is really supplemental plan to a licencee's corporate emergency response plan. Our plan focuses on oil spills and oil spill management.

The Deputy Chair: Is the relationship that provinces have with you with respect to their jurisdiction — provincially- regulated facilities and transportation — consistent with the National Energy Board regulation as well? What I am getting at is that the provinces in the West, at least, require membership or a plan. Does that apply both provincially and federally?

Mr. McFadyen: In our jurisdiction it is only applied provincially.

The Deputy Chair: You have been so efficient, so we will give you an early release. Thank you very much. It has been excellent, Mr. McFadyen. You have been very good and informative. I think all of us would agree with that. Thanks for taking the time.

(The committee adjourned.)