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Holding Industry Accountable

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Pipeline Performance Report - May 2018

We provide regulatory oversight to help prevent pipeline incidents, and we hold pipeline companies accountable for their actions and expect them to do their part to ensure that their pipelines are safe.

How are pipeline companies in Alberta performing? Each year, we release an industry performance report on pipelines, with information about each company that was involved in a pipeline incident. Our most recent report, which was released in May 2018, includes pipeline incidents that occurred between 2015 and 2017.

The report is part of our industry performance program, which measures, evaluates, and reports on the energy development activities that we regulate.

How We Classify Pipeline Incidents

All pipeline incidents in Alberta must be reported to us, including when a pipeline is hit but does not leak. Pipeline incidents can be caused by pipeline failures resulting from

  • corrosion due to poor maintenance or construction practices;
  • equipment failure;
  • material and welding defects;
  • natural events such as ground movement or flooding; or
  • human interference, such as when a pipeline is hit by heavy equipment during ground disturbance or damaged through vandalism.

We rate the consequence of each incident as high, medium, or low based on criteria that consider the impacts on the public, wildlife, and the environment. All incidents provide us with insight about factors leading to incidents and areas that could be improved to avoid future incidents.

High consequence: Incidents that could have significant impact on the public, wildlife, or the environment, or that involve the release of a substance that affects a large area or water body.
Medium consequence: Incidents that could have a moderate impact on the public, wildlife, or the environment, but have no impact on a flowing water body.
Low consequence: Incidents that involve little to no substance release; have little to no impact on the public, wildlife, and the environment; and have no impact on a water body.

What the Report Says

Over the past 10 years, even as the total length of pipelines grew by 11 per cent, the number of pipeline incidents dropped by 48 per cent. This resulted in a pipeline failure rate of 0.98 incidents per 1000 kilometres of pipeline in 2017 compared with a failure rate of 2.08 in 2008. This reduction is largely due to improvements to requirements and inspection programs, and a greater focus on industry education and pipeline safety within the energy industry. 

(click the image above to open up the data in Tableau)

In 2017, the number of pipeline incidents  in Alberta dropped by 6 per cent, from 445 in 2016 to 417 in 2017.

  • About 80 per cent of incidents had low consequences in terms of impacts to the public, wildlife, and the environment, while 14 per cent had medium consequences, and 6 per cent had high consequences.
  • The number of high-consequence pipeline incidents decreased by 10 per cent in 2017 (26) compared with 2016 (29). 
  • Internal corrosion remained the leading cause of pipeline failure, representing 37 per cent of all pipeline incidents. More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of internal corrosion failures occurred on steel uncoated pipelines, with the remaining on the metallic risers or connections on nonmetallic pipelines.
  • Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of pipeline incidents resulted in little (less than 1 cubic metre or about 6 barrels) to no substance released.

(click the image above to open up the data in Tableau)

  • Most high-consequence incidents (92 per cent) were for pipelines carrying salt water or oil-well effluent, which is a mixture of oil, gas, and salt water. Salt water pipelines had an overall pipeline failure rate of 2.7 incidents per 1000 kilometres, while oil‑well effluent pipelines had a failure rate of 2.3 incidents per 1000 kilometres.
  • The top six high-consequence pipeline incidents made up 66 per cent of the total volume of hydrocarbon liquid, salt water, and produced water released.
  Company Liquid volume released (m3) Substance released Date Location
1 Cenovus Energy Inc.
(Incident number: 20172859)
1,031 Salt water September 11, 2017 Jenner
2 Imaginea Energy Corp.
(Incident number: 20172421)
501 Oil-well effluent (1 m3 crude oil and 500 m3 salt water) July 30, 2017 Jenner
3 Razor Energy Corp.
(Incident number: 20173861)
500 Oil-well effluent (25 m3 crude oil and 475 m3 salt water) December 20, 2017 Swan Hills
4 Gain Energy Ltd.
(Incident number: 20172839)
460 Salt water September 8, 2017 Eckville
5 ARC Resources Ltd.
(Incident number: 20170567)
400 Oil-well effluent (200 m3 crude oil and 200 m3 salt water) February 14, 2017 Drayton Valley
6 Cenovus Energy Inc.
(Incident number: 20172039)
400 Oil-well effluent (20 m3 crude oil and 380 m3 salt water) June 23, 2017 Suffield

*For more information about these incidents, visit our Compliance Dashboard.
Our report data are available as Excel files and through Tableau, an interactive data visualization tool that allows users to filter and manipulate datasets.

When It Comes to Performance, All Metrics Matter

The common metric for reporting on pipeline performance is the number of incidents per 1000 kilometres of pipeline, which is also a useful metric for comparing performance of similar pipeline companies. While this is an important indicator of performance, it doesn’t tell us the full story. The fact is, many factors go into determining the performance of a pipeline company, and the results might differ depending on the metric used.

To compare performance of pipeline companies, it’s critical that we compare companies that have a similar pipeline network in terms of the kilometres of pipelines they operate and that we look at a many different metrics, such as

  • number of incidents,
  • consequence of those incidents,
  • number of incidents per 1000 kilometres of pipeline, and
  • volume of product released.

We also look at each company’s compliance history and at the location of its pipelines and the products carried because pipelines that are located near water bodies or that transport hazardous or corrosive substances, such as sour gas, salt water, or oil effluent, pose greater risks to the public, wildlife, and the environment.

How We Use the Data

We also analyze data on pipeline incidents to look for and learn from trends across the industry. We share that information with pipeline companies by interacting directly with the companies; by issuing new pipeline safety recommendations, such as those announced in our leak detection bulletin; and by introducing new pipeline safety programs, such as our pipeline safety and loss management program.