Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Shell still looking for leak answers

By Kathy Taylor
Friday March 14, 2008

BShell Canada Waterton served up not only beef on a bun, but a huge side of apology at an open house at the Pincher Creek Community Hall last Thursday.

While apologetic, Shell representatives were still unable to fully explain how a gas leak, the first of its kind for the company in Alberta, occurred west of Beaver Mines last November.

According to Shell Communications Representative for Exploration and Development Jeff Gabert, the sour gas leak occurred after internal corrosion ruptured a piece of the steel pipeline in the North Waterton Field. The break occurred off the Seven Gates Road in the Screwdriver Creek Valley Nov. 19, 2007.

“It’s not a big section, less than a foot (in length),” said Gabert, holding up the failed piece of pipe that was on display at the open house.

“As soon as the steel gave, the liner (made of high-density polyethylene) went,” he said.
“We don’t know how the internal corrosion made it to that particular localized portion of the pipe.”

The pipeline in question is fairly new, having been built in 2001. The liner was installed in 2003. Shell has 1,300 kilometres of pipeline in the province of Alberta, some of which is quite old.

“We haven’t seen anything like this on any of our other pipelines,” Gabert said.
The last “incident” Shell had in this area was a pinhole leak in its Carbondale pipeline December 18, 1995.

While they know what happened, Shell still doesn’t know why. An investigation into the cause of the pipeline failure is ongoing and includes third party analysis by an undisclosed company that “specializes in this type of investigation,” he said.

Gabert could not say when the investigation will be finished. “It can take a long time when you are dealing with this type of investigation,” he said.

From Shell’s perspective, that investigation includes a five-step process.

First is to continue to investigate the incident, second is the development of a corrosive model, third is to validate that model, fourth is to revise its integrity plan and fifth is to plan to re-start the line.

Until the investigation is complete, the pipeline is shut down. “There won’t be any production until we’re certain it’s safe,” Gabert said.

There are several reasons why it took almost four months for Shell to publicly answer questions about the leak.

Shell first had to prepare a report for the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB – formerly the EUB) which was done at the end of January, then analyse the pipe so that they had “an indication of the main factors involved,” said Gabert.

“Now we have some of those answers and we wanted to share them with the community,” he said.

“Our purpose here (at the open house) is to discuss everything we know at this point with our neighbours and we’ll continue to do that as the investigation continues.

“We apologize for the event. We’re working very hard to get to the root cause and we’ll continue to keep people informed as we move forward with the investigation.” and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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