Canada's pipelines vulnerable to sabotage, expert says

Northern Gateway pipeline. (QMI Agency File)

Northern Gateway pipeline. (QMI Agency File)

Jessica Hume, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 8:41 PM ET

Canada is more vulnerable than other energy-producing countries when it comes to protecting its pipelines, security experts say.

"Pipelines are not easy to protect, and the threat against them is very real." says Dr. Martin Rudner, founding director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University. "Canada stands out more than, say, Greenland, Denmark or Germany because we're an energy superpower; it's a matter of scale."

Another Canadian pipeline security expert who works internationally said he has never been contacted by a Canadian company for work on protection from activist sabotage.

"It should be more of a concern here," he said.

A recently declassified RCMP intelligence report cites growing radicalism among eco-activists as a threat to energy infrastructure. Rudner explains Canada has been identified as a target by Al Qaeda. In 2006, it attacked the Nexen oil refinery in Yemen - Canada's largest refinery abroad.

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of kilometres of unguarded pipeline, the infrastructure itself is vulnerable.

Unlike other countries, Canada uses single trunk pipelines; if one segment is destroyed, the internal flow is disrupted and can't be rerouted.

Another challenge is Canada's own legal system.

Foreign planes fly over Canadian refineries, for example. But the civil aviation legislation prevents oil companies from doing anything to stop this.

"Nuclear facilities are protected by armed guards," Rudner said. "But we don't allow the same for oil refineries."

But the feds haven't entirely dropped the ball, Rudner says.

"The real protection isn't passive defence - armed guards at refineries - it's proactive use of intelligence and law enforcement," he said. "You I.D. the people who pose a threat."


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