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Fact Sheet

30 March 2007

Focus on Safety and Environment: A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance 2000-2005

Each year, billions of dollars of crude, natural gas and other petroleum products quietly travel thousands of kilometres from pump jacks and refineries on to hospitals, schools, factories and your home. As Canada's federal regulator, it is the role of the National Energy Board to ensure these pipelines are safe and secure for the men and women who build and operate them, for our land and for the communities they traverse. The Board regulates 104 pipeline companies with more than 45,000 km of pipeline; that's enough to wrap around the planet.

The fifth Focus on Focus on Safety and Environment - A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance 2000-2005 [PDF 2158 KB] takes a look at the safety, integrity and environmental performance of NEB-regulated pipelines. This is just one of the ways the NEB tracks and reports on results and best practices. Using data provided by companies operating approximately 95 per cent of the total length of NEB-regulated pipelines, this report includes these key findings:

  • For the eighth consecutive year, there were no fatalities on NEB-regulated pipelines.
  • 2005 was the third year in a row in which there were no reported ruptures.
  • In 2001, nearly two out of every 100 pipeline workers were injured annually. By 2005, this ratio had dropped by 50 per cent.

Protecting our Workers

Last year more than 3,000 people worked on the construction, maintenance and operation of NEB-regulated pipelines. In 2005, 22 pipeline workers were injured. This is a small drop from 23 injured workers in 2003. However, contractors working on pipelines are still injured nearly twice as often as full-time employees. Last , seven pipeline contractors suffered an injury, for a frequency of about 1.1 injuries for every 100 contractors compared to 0.6 injuries for every 100 employees. Although there has been a significant improvement since 2001 when nearly five out of every 100 contractors suffered an injury, the NEB recognizes the need for improvement.

Protecting our Environment

The National Energy Board drafts strict guidelines to ensure that pipelines are not and are not perceived to be, a threat to their natural surroundings.

Last year, 39 liquid leaks were reported on NEB-regulated pipelines. Many of these leaks are associated with everyday operations involving pipeline components, such as valves, pumps and storage tanks, rather than releases from the actual pipe body. Generally, the volume from an individual leak is quite small, perhaps only a few litres; however, in 2005 more than 6 598 barrels leaked from NEB-regulated liquid pipelines. Nearly the entire volume was the result of a large leak at a pipeline terminal, where the product was contained within the company's own facility.

Although a release from the pipe body is relatively rare - the Board's six-year average is 0.05 liquid releases per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline - there were two liquid releases on NEB-regulated pipelines in 2005. A release is caused by a hole or crack in the pipe body itself. These two releases occurred at a pipeline terminal and a pump station and both were contained within the facilities.

Protecting our Interests

The National Energy Board was the first regulator in North America to direct the pipeline companies it regulates to adopt integrity management programs. These programs include the tools, technologies and strategies needed to ensure that pipelines are safe. Integrity management programs, in effect, help pipeline companies prevent incidents before they happen and act to prevent them. For the third year in a row, there were no reported ruptures on NEB-regulated pipelines. A rupture is a loss of containment that impairs the operation of the pipeline.

Between 1991 and 2002, there was an average of 2.5 ruptures every year. This improvement appears to be related to the proactive nature and sophistication of the integrity management programs adopted by pipeline companies.

How We Can Get Better

The National Energy Board is constantly looking for ways to improve and better meet its mandate. Moving forward, there are several areas where pipeline performance indicators could be improved including:

  • Improved harmonization of reporting standards between the NEB, other regulators and industry organizations;
  • Requesting throughput data through the Safety Performance Indicators initiative;
  • Consulting with industry representatives on approaches to capture the economic costs and environmental impacts of leaks, releases and spills;
  • Developing leading indicators for safety, integrity and protection of the environment, and
  • Working with companies to find leading indicators that provide meaningful information to the pipeline industry.

In Conclusion

Based on this report, it is clear that NEB-regulated pipelines are a safe and efficient means of transporting petroleum products. As partners in the responsible development of Canada's energy sector, we must all work together to ensure that NEB-regulated facilities are safe, secure and are operated in a manner that protects the environment.

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