Chapter 12: Abandonment of a Pipeline

When a pipeline is no longer useful, a company must apply to the NEB to abandon it. Once a pipeline is abandoned, it cannot be used to carry oil and gas products or any commodity again. In some cases, pipelines may be deactivated or taken out of service for periods of time before they are abandoned. An application for the abandonment of a federally-regulated pipeline requires a hearing.

For more information, see the NEB publication Regulating Pipeline Abandonment.

What are the steps involved to abandon a pipeline?

  • The company will develop an abandonment plan with input from the landowner, environmental or other technical experts, and any other stakeholders;
  • The company applies to the Board for permission to abandon the pipeline;
  • The Board may request further information; and
  • Once the application is complete, a public hearing is held to decide whether the abandonment would be in the public interest and whether the procedures proposed would provide for adequate safety and protection of the environment.

Are pipelines always left in place when they are abandoned?

Abandoned pipe may be removed from the ground, or it may be cleaned, treated and left in the ground. There may be sections of the pipeline that are proposed to be removed and other sections to remain in place. Surface facilities may be dismantled or reused for other purposes. The choice between removing or abandoning in place depends on the current and future uses of the land and the impacts each option will have on the surrounding environment. The NEB expects companies to fully consider all options in their applications.

Are landowners consulted about abandonment?

For all applications, and as stated in the Board’s Filing Manual companies are expected to discuss the abandonment project and any concerns with landowners and others who may be impacted by it and include
that in the plan for abandonment.

If you are a landowner, an occupant, the owner of facilities crossed by the pipeline, or any other person or group who may be affected, the company should be in touch with you as early as possible to ensure that your concerns are dealt with at the planning stage of abandonment. Some landowners choose to include clauses in their land agreements which talk about what will happen if the company decides to abandon the pipeline. Despite having a land agreement or contract in place, a company will still have to apply to the NEB for approval of the abandonment.

What is in an abandonment plan?

The procedures are different for each abandonment depending on the location of the pipeline and the future proposed uses for the land. The company’s abandonment plan usually addresses key issues that relate to public safety, environmental protection, and future land use. These include:

  • land use management;
  • ground settling;
  • soil and groundwater contamination;
  • pipe cleanliness;
  • water crossings;
  • soil erosion;
  • utility and pipeline crossings;
  • creation of water conduits, where water travels through the pipeline; and
  • related pipeline equipment, e.g. risers, valves, piping, etc.

Will I have to pay out of my own pocket to take the pipe out?

Landowners should not remove pipelines or facilities. All costs associated with the abandonment will be paid by the company, including clean up of the surrounding area until it is reclaimed to the Board’s specifications or applicable environmental standards. As set out in RH-2-2008 decision, the Board expects that landowners will not be liable for costs of pipeline abandonment.

The NEB requires companies to set aside money for abandonment work, including the activities to deal with unforeseen events after abandonment is complete. In addition, the company is required to assess its funding collection program over time to provide assurance that the amounts being set aside are appropriate.

Landowners will not be liable for costs of pipeline abandonment.

What if the Board approves the abandonment?

If the Board decides to allow the abandonment, the company must complete the steps it committed to take during the hearing and any additional measures that the NEB requires the company to take (for example, testing of soil or reclamation of the right-of-way). Once the NEB is satisfied that all commitments have been met, and the risks to public safety and the environment are eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level as determined in the hearing, the NEB's abandonment order takes effect and the pipeline is considered to be abandoned. At that point, the pipeline is no longer under the jurisdiction of the NEB, but falls under provincial authority.

Can a pipeline ever be used again?

An application for a new pipeline authorization would have to be made to the NEB.

What if I plan to conduct work on an abandoned pipeline?

If a company or any other person wants to work on (e.g., make contact with, alter or remove) an abandoned pipeline then an application for permission of the Board may be required. The permission may set conditions on how the work is to be conducted (e.g. timing or reclamation requirements). Please contact the NEB for further information.

Please call the pipeline company immediately if you unintentionally contact an abandoned pipeline.

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