News Release 2013-02-26/1


News Release 2013-02-26/1

News Release 2013-02-26/1 (NR2013-02)

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High-risk enforcement action issued against Plains Midstream Canada for 2011 spill

For immediate release

Calgary, Alberta (Feb 26, 2013)… The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) has issued four high-risk enforcement actions against Plains Midstream Canada in relation to a 2011 oil spill on the NPS20 Rainbow Pipeline in Northern Sunrise County.

Following the spill, the ERCB launched a comprehensive investigation that involved numerous ERCB staff, included a technical review of the causes of the incident and emergency response activities, and identified specific areas for company improvement and recommendations for enforcement action.

Through the investigation, the ERCB identified four areas in which Plains Midstream failed to comply with regulatory requirements. As a result, the ERCB issued high-risk enforcement action against the company for

  • inadequate backfill and compaction procedures,
  • inadequate operations and maintenance procedures,
  • inadequate leak detection and response, and
  • failure to test its emergency response plan.

In addition to the high-risk enforcement action, the investigation report also describes the company’s substandard efforts, beyond initial notification, to ensure that the public and other stakeholders were kept informed of the incident and its progress. As a result, Plains has been directed to engage a third party to conduct an audit of the company’s ability to manage communications during a crisis, with the results submitted to the ERCB no later than April 30, 2013.

To further minimize the risk of a similar incident, the ERCB has also directed Plains to complete the following actions:

  • implement risk assessment procedures that identify all current and historical risks associated with pipelines of the same type;
  • conduct a major emergency response exercise by March 31, 2013, with results submitted to the ERCB; and
  • confirm and demonstrate that the enhanced backfill procedures have been incorporated into the company’s standard operating procedures.

At the time of the incident, the ERCB required the company to conduct a number of activities to ensure the pipeline could be operated safely before the ERCB would consider granting approval for it to restart. Conducted under ERCB supervision, these activities included

  • excavation of all welded pipeline sleeves for ERCB inspection;
  • weekly aerial patrols of the pipeline;
  • implementation of improved leak detection and pipeline restart procedures; and
  • revision of its backfill and compaction procedures.

Since the incident, Plains has been subject to an increased frequency of ERCB audits and inspections of the company’s pipeline operations.

Failure to comply with all ERCB-directed actions will result in the escalation of enforcement action, which can include partial or full suspension of operations. The final report, as well as all correspondence between the company and the regulator, is now available at

On April 28, 2011, Plains Midstream Canada experienced a pipeline failure on its NPS20 Rainbow Pipeline, approximately 95 km northeast of Peace River in Northern Sunrise County. The failure resulted in a release of approximately 4,450 m3 (28,000 barrels) of crude oil. Following extensive ERCB assessment and a number of technical and safety requirements, approval was granted to restart the pipeline on August 26, 2011. The pipeline has been in operation since August 30, 2011. The site has been cleaned up, and reclamation and remediation efforts are still underway.

The ERCB is Alberta’s primary energy regulator. For almost 75 years we have been committed to our mission: to ensure that the discovery, development, and delivery of Alberta’s energy resources occur in a fair and responsible manner that takes into account public safety, environmental protection, and resource conservation.


Plains Midstream Canada faces four high-risk enforcement actions for inadequate procedures, leak detection, and response after an oil spill in Northeast Alberta, says Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board. The report comes following an investigation into the April 2011 pipeline failure on the Rainbow Pipeline, resulting in a release of approximately 28,000 barrels of crude oil. The full report is available at

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For more information, please contact:

Darin Barter
Phone: 403-681-0946
Media line: 1-855-474-6356