As more Alberta oil and gas fields become depleted, attention is being given to development of economically and environmentally sound abandonment procedures. The objective of this study was to identify and assess residual internal and external contaminants associated with abandoned pipelines, particularly those to be abandoned in place. Circumstances which might increase the risk of contaminant release, and other issues relating to residual pipeline contaminants, were also identified.
It was found that there are thousands of different substances which could potentially be associated with abandoned pipelines. A wide range in the potential quantities of residual contaminants was also found. Of the issues identified, the effectiveness of pipeline pigging and cleaning procedures prior to abandonment was the most critical determinant of the potential quantities of residual contaminants. However, a number of trace contaminants, such as PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) and NORMs (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials) may remain after thorough cleaning.
A brief review of the legislation and regulations from a number of jurisdictions shows that pipeline abandonment has only recently become an issue of concern. Regulations specific to abandonment are lacking, and more genera] regulations and guidelines are being applied on a contaminant-specific basis, or in terms of waste disposal requirements.