If a pipeline incident is suspected, Plains will stop operations, send emergency response personnel to the scene to assess the situation and to minimize the impact of a potential incident. Plains employees will be available to isolate, shut down or start up any pipeline system facilities and to communicate with the appropriate local emergency response and public officials, including regulatory and government agencies.
Plains maintains extensive resources in the event of an emergency, which include company owned spill response equipment and utilizes contracts with external spill response companies. Additionally, Plains is a member of industry-sponsored spill cooperatives across our asset footprint and is part of mutual aid agreements to enhance response efforts.
Signs of a Product Release
It is important for those working on or living near our operations understand the signs of a pipeline release.
Signs of a Natural Gas Liquid (NGL) Release
The smell of natural gas is similar to that of rotten eggs. If you do not smell gas, there are also several visual and audible cues that will alert you to an NGL release. These include, but are not limited to:
- Pot holes in the soil along the pipeline right of way
- Frosted soil along the pipeline right of way
- Brownish fluid, similar in color to ginger ale
- A vapor cloud
- Obvious visible damage to a pipeline riser
- A roaring or hissing sound coming from the area around the pipeline
Note: High-concentration vapors may cause dizziness, irritation, or asphyxiation. Contact with the skin may cause burns and/or frostbite. If ignited, the fire may produce irritating or toxic gases.
Signs of an Oil Pipeline Release
Like with natural gas, you may smell an unusual petroleum or “rotten egg” odor. If you do not smell anything, there are several visual and audible cues that will alert you to an oil pipeline release. These include, but are not limited to:
- Liquid pooled on the ground above a pipeline
- Liquid spraying over the pipeline
- A rainbow sheen on a water source
- Discolored vegetation on or near a pipeline
- Stained or melted snow or ice over pipeline areas
- A roaring or hissing sound coming from the area around the pipeline
Signs of a Liquefied Petroleum Gas Pipeline Release (i.e. LPG, such as propane or butane)
You may notice a vaporous cloud or fog that travels low to the ground with possible frost formation, even in warm weather. Other visual cues include, but are not limited to:
- Dead vegetation on the ground near the pipeline
- Dirt being blow into the air
If You Suspect a Problem
If you encounter signs of a pipeline release, or any other unusual sights, sounds, or smells near a pipeline or asset, follow these steps:
- Turn off gas appliances or equipment to eliminate potential ignition sources (including cell phones, vehicles, tobacco products, etc.)
- Leave the area by foot immediately and move to a safe location at least half a mile (800 meters) upwind from the suspected release site
- Call 911 from a safe location, then call the Plains emergency contact number at:
- 1-800-708-5071 (U.S.)
- 1-866-875-2554 (Canada)
When a call is received, Plains emergency response personnel are notified and immediately dispatched to the area to safely manage the situation.
During an emergency, Plains personnel will work in combination with first responders, local authorities, government agencies and regulators to establish response strategies, as well as clean-up and remediation standards. Air monitoring will also be conducted to ensure the safety of the public and responders. In addition, we will dispatch our own resources, as well as contractors and other resources, including mutual aid and specialized response equipment, to the site to contain and control the situation.
If necessary, Plains’ emergency response personnel will contact affected stakeholders and provide instructions. For members of the public, this could include either shelter-in-place or evacuation measures, which are described below. For first responders, local and government agencies, this could include activation of an Emergency Response Plan (ERP).
Shelter in Place
Shelter in place is a viable public-protection measure where Plains personnel may ask residents to seek immediate shelter in their home and remain there during an emergency when:
The public is at higher risk if evacuated
There is insufficient time or warning to safely evacuate
People are waiting for evacuation assistance
The release is limited in size and/or duration
The location of the release has not been identified
Note: Shelter in place is not viable for recreational vehicles or campers due to the absence of a permanent shelter.
If you cannot evacuate and are advised to stay sheltered, do not leave your home or building, or attempt to start any vehicles until a company representative advises you that it is safe to do so. The following steps should be taken if shelter in place procedures are required:
- Immediately gather everyone indoors. Even if you see people outside, do not leave until you receive an “all clear” message from emergency response personnel.
- Close and lock all windows and outside doors. If possible, tape any gaps around exterior door frames.
- Extinguish indoor wood-burning fires and close flue dampers.
- Turn off anything that circulates air (i.e. furnaces, gas stoves, air conditioners, etc.).
- Leave all inside doors open.
- Wait in an upstairs interior room for further instructions.
- Avoid using the telephone, except for emergencies, so that you can be contacted by Plains emergency response personnel.
- Call Plains if you smell unexpected odors or experience symptoms headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc. Advise the representative if you have contacted any government agencies so response efforts can be coordinated.
- Tune in to local media for information updates.
- If you are unable to follow these instructions, please notify Plains emergency response personnel.
After the hazard has passed through the area you will receive an “all clear” message from Plains emergency response personnel along with instructions to ventilate your home or building by opening windows and doors, turning on fans, and turning up thermostats.
Notification and Evacuation
We work with local authorities and first responders to take action to ensure the safety of the public is maintained at all times while responding to an incident. If a release occurs, air monitoring is used to determine which public safety actions should be taken. If a Plains representative contacts you in the event of an emergency, you will be provided with instructions on what to do.
Maintaining up-to-date contact information is critical to a quick and effective response. If an emergency occurs where public safety actions may be required, Plains personnel will make direct contact with potentially impacted members of the public, communities, local authorities, government agencies and first responders by telephone or in-person visits. All personal information collected is kept confidential.
If you are contacted by Plains and advised of an emergency situation, the caller will:
- Identify themselves by name and announce that they are a Plains representative
- Describe the problem and what is being done
- Give you instructions to protect your safety
- Verify the information you have provided
- Address any concerns you may have
- Provide a phone number to call for additional information
In the event of an emergency, we have several ways that the general public can find out more information as updates to the situation become available.
You will be contacted immediately if it is necessary to evacuate. If there is no answer, our response personnel will come to your residence to inform you of the situation. If evacuation is required, the following steps should be followed:
- Gather everyone who resides in the household and bring any medications as required
- Turn down the thermostat and turn off any outside air exchange fans
- Lock all windows and doors
- Follow evacuation routes provided by response personnel to a local reception center
- Reception centers are temporary shelters for evacuees and are located a safe distance from the incident site
- Register yourself and all other members of your household at the reception center and wait for further instruction
Depending on the emergency situation, evacuees can choose to leave the reception center (if it is safe to do so) after registering and providing their contact information.
Public Safety and Information Handouts
Plains is required by regulation to inform landowners and communities of what actions to take in case of an emergency. Through our Public Awareness and Public Consultations programs, we reach out to thousands of stakeholders each year who may reside near our operations and associated emergency planning zones.
For landowners, first responders, local and government agencies, Indigenous Communities and members of the public who need to be contacted directly if an emergency occurs, Plains conducts public outreach programs that provide specific information about the operations in their community, including:
- Emergency notification information
- Public protection measures
- Pipeline safety, including operational details and potential hazards for the assets in the local area
Public Information Handouts
Please see below for our public information handouts specific to our Canadian assets.
Bodo Pipeline System
Buck Creek Fractionation Facility
Co-Ed Pipeline System
Empress NGL Extraction Facility
Empress 6 Facility
Empress-Kerrobert Pipeline System
Fort Saskatchewan Pipeline System
High Prairie Fractionation Facility
Kerrobert NGL Facility
Manito Pipeline System
Rainbow Pipeline System
Rainbow II Pipeline System
Rangeland Pipeline System
South Saskatchewan Pipeline System (SSPL)
Wascana Pipeline System
Eastern Area Pipeline, Sarnia Fractionation Facility and Windsor Storage Facility
As part of our initial incident response activities, Plains follows a formalized process to identify and evaluate potential risks in the event of an incident. Depending on the outcome of the evaluation and the potential risk, Plains will undertake appropriate monitoring and/or mitigation measures.
At all stages of the incident response, Plains strives to ensure that resources are protected and impacts are prevented and minimized. In the event drinking water is impacted, we will work with the water supply operator to provide alternate sources of clean water and water treatment, if and as necessary.
Safety Data Sheets
Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are available for products supplied by Plains. An SDS describes the hazards of a product and provides information on how a product can be safely handled, used and stored.
Click here to see a list our available Safety Data Sheets.