BOYLE, Alta. (Canadian OH&S News)
A college in rural Alberta has launched the first pipeline training centre in the province with the dual goals of providing entry-level workers in the oil and gas sector with practical skills as well as helping move more experienced workers into managerial roles.
Last month, Portage College announced that it will open the facility in early September to co-exist with its heavy equipment training centre at the college’s newest campus in Boyle, Alta. The program, the first of which is expected to be offered in September 2013, will cover five areas of pipeline training including construction, operation, maintenance, environment and regulatory policy.
Stuart Leitch, Portage College’s director of community and industry training initiatives, said that the college will be setting up a 42-person live, functioning mock camp next month.
“The centre is actually not a bricks and mortar facility, we are just in portable camps and portable structures,” Leitch explained. “What we’ve experienced, and industry has experienced, is a lot of students come up to do training, but what they’re not prepared for is to live in camp. A lot of the work that is in northeast Alberta right now is in fact remotely located so the individuals in a number of trades or technical programs come through them, but don’t do well because they are in a camp setting.”
The first component of the training program will show participants how to recognize equipment blind spots so students understand where and where not to stand to stay visible to operators, Leitch said. Students will also obtain a “safety passport” containing information on first aid, confined spaces, hydrogen sulphide awareness and construction pipeline safety, as well as rigging basics, hoisting load securement, spill response and incident response management.
In the winter months, an online training course will be developed focusing on advanced budgeting, financing and human resources aspects for workers already in the industry.
Leitch reported that 435,000 square feet has been set aside for above-ground pipes, containing four remotely controlled loops.
“There’re four exits off of the immediate control loop that we are calling educational loops. So we will be having fluid through pumps go through the process loop, but then we’ll be able to channel that into one of the four sections that we can actually put in a flawed asset,” he said, referring to such things as a corrosive material placed in a 40-foot jointed pipe.
The purpose will be to mimic a pipeline spill or release, Leitch says, adding that there will be a different soil composition for each of the loops to mock different soil zones. A control room, coming next September, will be set up for monitoring.
“The steep learning curve in the sector is eventually going to lead to a massive shortage of a competent and qualified workforce, so what we’re looking at is trying to work with industry to ease into that,” Leitch said. “In doing so, there’s no real standards for entry-level pipeline oil and gas people.”
Review of pipeline safety set to begin
The launch of the program comes on the heels of the announcement by the Alberta government that a yet-to-be-determined independent third party will conduct a review of pipeline safety in the province.
On July 20, energy minister Ken Hughes said that the Energy Resources Conservation Board will contract an independent third party to review how pipeline integrity is managed, how safety of pipelines crossing water ways is ensured and how responses to pipeline incidents are handled, while examining existing regulations and best practices worldwide.
The review is expected to take several months, said Alberta Energy spokesperson Janice Schroeder.