Click here for an informative video which explains the full life cycle of pipeline regulation in Alberta.
About 415 000 kilometres of Canada’s oil and gas pipelines operate solely within Alberta’s boundaries and fall under the jurisdiction of the AER. Certain rate-regulated gas transmission pipelines fall under the jurisdiction of the Alberta Utilities Commission, for which the AER conducts field inspections and provides incident response. Oil and gas pipelines that cross provincial or federal borders are regulated by the National Energy Board.
The AER ensures that the design, construction, operation, and maintenance—including discontinuation and abandonment—of regulated pipelines complies with Alberta’s Pipeline Act, Pipeline Regulation, and applicable Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards. The AER's pipeline inspection program considers pipeline fluid characteristics, location, line size, failure history, and the company’s compliance history. Pipelines with greater potential risks are given a higher inspection priority.
The AER requires licensees to develop and implement integrity management programs to identify and mitigate risks associated with a particular pipeline, including corrosion mitigation and monitoring as well as other risk factors. Licensees must re-evaluate corrosion potential annually and keep records of the actions taken to ensure compliance with all regulations. Pipelines carrying only liquid hydrocarbons must have automated leak detection systems that continuously monitor pipeline operations and alert the operator to unusual operating conditions, allowing for a rapid response at the first sign of pipeline failure.
In Alberta there are stringent and comprehensive regulations in place that address pipeline risks. Risk management involves reducing the likelihood of a pipeline failing as well as the size of a potential release. Although risk cannot be completely eliminated, safety rates in recent years have been at their highest ever, and the AER continues to improve that record of success. The province’s rigorous pipeline safety regulations, requirements, and safety record have garnered interest from regulators around the globe.
In Alberta, all incidents, including those in which a pipeline is damaged but does not leak, must be reported to the AER, regardless of volume. The pipeline failure rate for 2012 was 1.5 failures per 1000 kilometres. This is significantly improved from 2.1 failures per 1000 kilometres in 2008. In 2012, the AER conducted more than 1400 pipeline inspections and investigations, including more than 270 construction inspections.
When the AER identifies noncompliance, Directive 019: Compliance Assurance provides a detailed enforcement protocol for restrictions or sanctions on a licensee’s current operations and further development—including ordering the pipeline to shut down until the problems are corrected.
The AER holds licensees responsible for incident response, which might include assistance from several other sources, including government agencies or other licensees operating in the region. Licensees must follow requirements outlined in Directive 071: Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements for the Petroleum Industry, which includes having a detailed emergency response plan in place.
The AER also conducts comprehensive investigations after serious incidents to determine the cause of a pipeline failure and what can be done to prevent a similar situation in the future.
In July 2012, the Honourable Ken Hughes, Alberta’s Minister of Energy, directed the AER to conduct a third-party pipeline safety review. Group 10 Engineering Ltd. conducted the review, which examined the adequacy of pipeline requirements and industry best practices for public safety and response to pipeline incidents, pipeline integrity management, and the safety of pipelines at, or near, water crossings.
The Alberta Pipeline Safety Review included seventeen recommendations to enhance an existing strong and extensive Alberta pipeline regulatory system. Subsequent to its completion, the AER conducted a comprehensive analysis and responded to all of the review’s findings.
To provide additional information on pipeline safety and regulation, the AER published its latest report on pipeline safety in the province. Report 2013-B: Pipeline Performance in Alberta, 1990–2012 summarizes the amount and type of pipelines in Alberta, analyzes pipeline incident statistics, and calculates failure frequency of various types of lines. Earlier versions of the report include Report 2007-A, which is currently available on the AER website, and Report 98-G and Report 91-G, available through the AER library.