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TC Energy pipeline rupture sparks wildfire near Edson, Alta.

A wildfire blazed through west-central Alberta, ignited by the rupture of a natural gas pipeline, though now it's under control. Yet, understanding what led to the pipeline's breakage might take a significant stretch of time, possibly months, or even years.

In Yellowhead County, where the fire raged, calm has largely returned. Covering 10 hectares, the fire stirred about 40 kilometers northwest of Edson on Tuesday. Caroline Charbonneau, Alberta Forestry and Parks' area information coordinator, explained the remaining steps, saying, "But for it to be considered extinguished, we're going to have to hot spot. That means we'll have to dig into the ground, look and feel for hot spots, and then douse it with water. And that could take several days."

The incident unfolded amidst Alberta's dry early spring conditions. The trigger was the rupture of a natural gas pipeline belonging to TC Energy Corp. Fortunately, no injuries ensued, and the fire posed no threat to nearby communities. The affected pipeline segment got isolated and shut down, halting any further gas leakage.

Authorities are actively involved in scrutinizing the event. The Canada Energy Regulator deployed inspectors to oversee the company's response, while the Transportation Safety Board launched its investigation.

This incident stands out within a broader context. Over the past decade, Canada has witnessed 12 natural gas pipeline ruptures, making this rupture near Edson a significant event—the first of its kind on this particular pipeline within that timeframe.

The ruptured pipe, measuring 36 inches in diameter, forms part of TC Energy's NGTL pipeline system. This extensive network spans over 24,631 kilometers, facilitating the transport of natural gas from Alberta and northeast B.C. to various domestic and export markets. Interconnected with TC Energy’s Canadian Mainline system, Foothills system, and other third-party pipelines, the NGTL system serves as a critical artery in Canada's energy infrastructure.

This incident draws attention to the safety of pipeline systems. Bill Caram, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, emphasized that while pipelines are generally secure, the potential consequences of failures can be severe, particularly in the case of natural gas, where ruptures can lead to fires or explosions.

Data from the Transportation Safety Board reveals a total of 19 fires linked to pipelines in Canada between 2012 and 2022. However, the overall safety record of federally regulated pipeline systems remains a topic of scrutiny. In 2022, there were 67 accidents or incidents recorded, though this figure marks a decline compared to previous years.

Despite occasional setbacks, fatal accidents directly linked to the operation of federally regulated pipelines have been notably absent since the establishment of the Transportation Safety Board in 1990, underscoring ongoing efforts to enhance pipeline safety in Canada.

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