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Fact Sheet

30 March 2006

Focus on Safety and Environment - A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance 2000-2004

Last year, Canadian pipelines fed markets at home and abroad with more than $120 billion of natural gas, crude oil and petroleum - products used to heat our homes, fuel our cars and power our industries. The safety, security and environmental protection of these pipelines are the responsibility of the National Energy Board. The Board regulates 104 pipeline companies with more than 45,000 km of pipeline; that's enough to wrap around the planet.

The fourth annual Focus on Safety and Environment - A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance 2000-2004 [PDF 1510 KB] is the pipeline industry's report card. It examines the safety, integrity and environmental performance of NEB-regulated pipelines. It is a unique approach, not all organizations compare themselves to other agencies, but it's just one of the ways the NEB tracks and reports on results and best practices. Using data provided by companies operating approximately 94 per cent of the total length of NEB-regulated pipelines, this report includes these key findings:

  • For the seventh consecutive year, there were no fatalities on NEB-regulated pipelines.
  • 2004 was the second year in a row in which there were no reported ruptures.
  • Pipelines are safer places to work. The rate of injury to contract workers dropped by more than 50 per cent last year.
  • There have been no liquid or gas releases from NEB-regulated pipelines in the last two years. A release is caused by a rupture or hole in the body of a pipeline.

Protecting our Workers

Last year more than 3,000 people worked on the construction, maintenance and operation of NEB-regulated pipelines. For the seventh year in a row, all of them were able to go home to their families at the end of their shifts. When it comes to safety, no news is good news.

In 2004, 23 pipeline workers reported an injury, which is 0.7 injuries for every 200,000 hours worked. This is down from 2003 when there was one injury for every 200,000 hours worked. However, pipeline contractors are injured nearly twice as often as full-time employees. Last year, there were 11 contractor injuries or about 1.4 injuries for every 200,000 hours worked. Although this is a 50 per cent drop from 2003, the NEB recognizes the need for improvement.

In June 2005, the Board brought stakeholders together to discuss the injury discrepancy between employees and contractors. Attendees identified several challenges in managing contractor safety, including training issues caused by high turnover rates, fatigue due to tight construction schedules and remote worksites. This discussion was one step towards promoting a safer working environment for everyone.

Protecting our Environment

Protecting our environment is central to the Board's goals and mandates. Last year about two litres per kilometre leaked from liquid pipelines. Leaks are associated with everyday pipeline operations and components, such as valves and storage tanks, rather than the actual pipe body. Generally, the volume is quite small, perhaps only a few litres; only five of 39 reported leaks involved more than 1,500 litres of liquid.

For the second year in a row, there were no releases on NEB-regulated pipelines. A release is caused by a hole or rupture in the pipe body. Releases are relatively rare; the expected frequency is approximately one release for every 20,000 km of liquid pipelines and a gas release is even less common.

Protecting our Interests

Pipeline companies are required to incorporate integrity management programs. These programs include the tools, technologies and actions needed to ensure that pipelines are safe and stay that way. Integrity management programs, in effect, help pipeline companies predict failures before they happen and act to prevent them.

For the second year in a row, there was not a single rupture on NEB-regulated pipelines. A rupture is a loss of containment that impairs the operation of the pipeline. In real terms, a rupture has the potential for disaster. They can cause explosions, fire and even loss of life. Between 1991 and 2002, there was an average of 2.5 ruptures every year. This improvement appears to be a direct result of the sophistication and proactive nature of integrity management programs.

How We Can Get Better

The National Energy Board is constantly looking for ways to improve in order to better meet its mandate and we've identified several areas where this report could be improved. These include:

  • Developing harmonized reporting across the various regulatory agencies and organizations would be an important step towards promoting a safer work environment;
  • Incorporating an injury cause analysis with a focus on contractor injuries;
  • Developing leading indicators for safety, integrity and protection of the environment; and
  • Analyzing the economic cost and environmental impact of liquid and gas releases and leaks.

In Conclusion

Based on this report, it is clear that Canadian pipelines work well and work safely. The numbers tell us that our worksites and pipelines are getting safer. Our stakeholders tell us that we are meeting their needs. Working together, we will continue to find ways to improve the safety of our pipelines for the men and women who build and operate them, for the communities they traverse and for our environment.

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