In the light of recent experience of wildfires in Alberta and British Columbia, Alliance Pipeline has strengthened their emergency preparedness in dealing with external fire events that have the potential to affect above-ground facilities connected with their high pressure natural gas pipeline system. As part of this initiative a quantitative methodology has been developed that enables the effects of a wildfire on an above-ground pipeline facility to be assessed.
The methodology consists of three linked calculations which assess:
1. the severity of the wildfire, based on information from the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System,
2. the transmission of thermal radiation from the wildfire to the facility, and,
3. the response of equipment, structures and buildings to the incident thermal radiation.
The predictions of the methodology agree well with the actual damage observed at a lateral block valve site following a wildfire in 2016. Application to example facility types (block valve sites, meter stations and compressor stations) has demonstrated that, in general, damage is only predicted for more vulnerable items such as cables.
The sensitivity of the predictions of the methodology to the input parameters and key modelling uncertainties has been examined. This demonstrates that the results are sensitive to the distance of the facility from the tree line and the assumed vegetation type. This shows the importance of verifying the location relative to the vegetation and selecting the appropriate vegetation type from the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System for site specific assessments. The predictions of the methodology are particularly sensitive to the assumed flame temperature. However, a value has been chosen that gives good agreement with measured thermal radiation values from wildfires.
Of the mitigation options considered, the most effective and practical is to increase the distance to the tree line. This measure has the advantage of reducing radiation levels for all items on the site. Even though the work shows that failure of exposed pipework due to wildfires is unlikely, maintaining the flow within pipes is recommended as this increases the radiative flux at which failure is predicted to occur. However, as failure of cables and hence control systems would occur at a lower flux levels the fail-safe actions of such systems needs to be confirmed. Shielding of cables or items of equipment in general is likely to be impractical but could be considered for particularly vulnerable equipment or locations.