Updated August 2023
Pipelines transport many different products that are used for a variety of purposes. For example, pipelines carry raw oilfield production to processing facilities and finished petroleum products to market. Regardless of the use, each pipeline must be closely monitored and maintained. Through the Pipeline Act, Pipeline Rules, and CSA Group standards, the AER regulates companies over the life cycle of their pipelines. By overseeing pipeline design, construction, operation, discontinuation, and abandonment, we help prevent incidents and hold companies accountable for their actions.
Under the industry performance program, we release an annual Pipeline Performance Report, which includes information about pipeline incidents. This year’s report covers the period from 2017 to 2022.
The AER regulates oil and gas pipelines solely within the borders of Alberta. However, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) regulates high-pressure gas utility pipelines in Alberta. We manage incidents and inspections for high-pressure gas utility pipelines on behalf of the AUC under a memorandum of understanding between the AUC and AER. The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) regulates oil and gas pipelines that cross provincial or international borders. For more information, see Pipelines in Alberta: what landowners need to know.
Although this report discusses only pipeline incidents and information relating to AER-regulated pipelines, information on AUC-regulated pipelines is available using the table and figure filters. This report does not include information on CER-regulated pipelines.
In 2022, there were about 40% fewer incidents than in 2013, even though the total pipeline kilometres (km) grew by 8% in the same period. The 2022 pipeline incident rate was 0.73 per 1000 km of pipeline compared with 1.32 in 2013.
This ongoing improvement in the incident rate is attributable to industry development and adoption of better pipeline practices and our continuous improvement of pipeline requirements and inspections that focus on educating industry about pipeline safety. However, oil and gas industry downturns have resulted in fewer operational pipelines, possibly contributing to the lower incident rate.
Figure 1 shows the relationship of incidents to pipeline kilometres for the past ten years.
- The number of pipeline incidents in Alberta decreased from 344 in 2021 to 325 in 2022, a 5.5% decrease.
- About 88% of incidents were rated as "low consequence," 10% as "medium consequence," and only 2% as "high consequence." See the glossary for the definition of incident consequence ratings.
- The number of pipeline incidents rated as a high consequence dropped by 27%, decreasing from 11 incidents in 2021 to 8 in 2022.
- The high-consequence incidents involved pipelines carrying produced water (water from a wellbore produced as a by-product of oil and gas production), oil-well effluent (a mixture of unrefined oil, gas, and produced water), or sour natural gas.
- The annual incident ratio decreased to 0.73 incidents per 1000 km in 2022 compared with 0.78 incidents in 2021. Produced water pipelines had an overall pipeline incident rate of 1.84 incidents per 1000 km, oil effluent pipelines had a rate of 1.86 incidents per 1000 km, and sour natural gas pipelines had a rate of 0.75 incidents per 1000 km.
- Internal corrosion remains the leading cause of pipeline incidents at 46%. More than 80% of internal corrosion incidents occurred on uncoated steel pipelines, up from 76% in 2021.
- About 65% of pipeline incidents involved no release of fluids or releases of one cubic metre (m3) (about six barrels) or less.
- The largest release of fluids in 2022 was 380 m3 of produced water.
- In 2022, there was a 75% increase in pipeline incidents related to contact damage during ground disturbance (24 incidents in 2021 and 42 in 2022). Of particular concern in 2022 is a 243% year-over-year increase in licensees damaging their pipelines (first party) via contact during ground disturbance (from 7 incidents in 2021 to 24 in 2022).