ARCHIVED - Pipeline Incidents: Spills of Hydrocarbon Liquids

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In our recently released annual report to Canadians, the National Energy Board provided safety information relating to our regulated pipelines and facilities. This included a detailed list of all incidents considered reportable under the National Energy Board Onshore Pipeline Regulations (OPR). Reported incidents are not limited to liquid spills. They can also include fires, equipment failures, security issues or the operation of a pipeline beyond its design limits.

Pipeline safety and the development of natural resources in a responsible and sustainable way are top of mind for Canadians. The public is asking for more information on how regulated companies are performing, specifically in the areas of safety and environmental protection. The NEB is listening and working to provide clear and accurate information on important issues such as liquid spills.

The total volume of the releases on NEB-regulated pipelines has declined over the last five years. While this is a step in the right direction, the NEB expects its regulated companies to strive for zero incidents.

Liquid Release Volume (m³) per 1000 km of Liquid Pipelines

Liquid Release Volume (m3) per 1000 km of Liquid Pipelines

*The National Energy Board regulates over 18,000 kilometres of liquid pipelines in Canada.

From January 2008 to the end of April 2013, there have been 40 reportable releases of liquid hydrocarbons. The relative seriousness of a liquid spill is categorized by volume in cubic metres and has been divided into three categories:

  • Greater than 1.5 m³ but less than 8 m³;
  • Greater than 8m ³ but less than 100 m³; and
  • Greater than 100 m³.

Companies are also required to report on spills that could have a significant adverse effect on the environment regardless of size. An example of this would be any release of hydrocarbons into a water body. Of the reportable incidents shown below, four were liquid releases into waterways.

Liquid Spill Incidents by Year & Volume
Liquid Release <8 m³ Liquid Release > 8 m³,
< 100 m³
Liquid Release >100 m³
2008 8 3 1
2009 4 0 2
2010 2 5 1
2011 4 1 1
2012 1 2 0
Jan-Apr 2013 5 0 0
Total 24 11 5
5 year Average 3.8 2.4 0.8

*For a detailed year by year account of liquid releases please click here.
*To view a volume conversion table please click here.

Reportable Liquid Releases by Year

Reportable liquid releases by year

Of these reported liquid releases, almost two-thirds were between 0.00025m³ and 8m³ in size and 70 per cent were contained to company property. In all cases, the NEB conducts a thorough investigation of the spill. This includes determining the cause and contributing factors that led to the incident itself.

The ultimate goal of an NEB investigation is identifying ways to prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future. To this end, incident reports are often accompanied by corrective and enforcement actions if required. Companies may also be subject to additional compliance oversight by the Board.

Number of Liquid Releases by Volume - January 2008 - April 2013

Number of Liquid Releases by Volume - January 2008 - April 2013

Much of the work the NEB does through its regulatory oversight is aimed at preventing incidents from happening in the first place. However, when something does go wrong, the National Energy Board holds companies fully responsible and accountable for responding in a manner that protects the public, property and the environment. Companies must meet all of the NEB's required environmental remediation criteria regardless of cost.

No matter the size of the incident, the NEB maintains its expectations of regulated-companies and continues to provide a thorough and appropriate response to liquid spills.

The National Energy Board is an independent federal regulator of several parts of Canada's energy industry with the safety of Canadians and protection of the environment as its top priority. Its purpose is to regulate pipelines, energy development and trade in the Canadian public interest. The NEB is committed to providing information on the safety of Canada's energy infrastructure on an ongoing basis.

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