March 1, 2004

NEB safety report shows lower figures for spills, releases from pipeline companies

The safety performance of pipeline companies regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB) continues to compare well with that of other companies whose performance is monitored by other provincial, national and international organizations.

In its second Focus on Safety report, the NEB provides details on the safety performance of NEB-regulated oil and gas pipelines for the calendar years 2002, 2001 and 2000. Its assessment is based on six key indicators which the Board has established to provide meaningful measures of the safety performance of pipeline companies. The indicators include fatalities, ruptures, injury frequencies, liquid hydrocarbon releases, gas releases and unauthorized activities on the right of way.

The report focuses solely on companies regulated under the National Energy Board Act and does not include performance indicators on pipelines carrying anything other than hydrocarbon liquids or natural gas. Information in the report was obtained from incident reports submitted pursuant to the Onshore Pipeline Regulations, 1999 and provided voluntarily by pipeline companies under the Board's safety performance indicators initiative.

NEB-regulated pipeline companies recorded 76 hydrocarbon liquid releases (spills) in 2002, up from 55 in 2001. Both these figures, however, are significantly lower than the 265 spills reported in 2000. The high number of spills for that year is attributed to high levels of construction activity; the 2001 and 2002 totals are considered more typical for the industry, notes the report. Volumes spilled in 2002 were approximately one-third of those released in 2001.

The number of gas releases from reporting companies declined to 13 in 2002, after remaining relatively constant in 2001 (29 releases) and 2000 (23 releases). By way of comparison, the report points out that NEB-regulated companies are required to report all gas releases, regardless of volume or effects, whereas the Board's U.S. and European counterparts require reporting only over specified threshold volumes, costs or other conditions.

The number of ruptures reported by NEB-regulated pipeline companies increased to three in 2002 from two in 2001. The primary cause of ruptures among NEB-regulated pipelines over the past ten years is metal loss (corrosion) and cracking. Similarly, metal loss is also cited as the leading cause of pipeline incidents by other regulatory agencies such as the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety.

The number of unauthorized activities on the right of way incidents reported to the Board decreased significantly to 25 in 2002 from 51 in 2001 and 49 in 2000. Incidents resulting in contact to the pipeline itself remained at one for both 2002 and 2001 from two in 2000. The report also indicates that NEB-regulated pipeline companies recorded no fatalities during the 2000-2002 reporting period. Injury frequencies (employee and contractor injuries combined) during this period were consistent with frequencies reported by external reference organizations.

The report was produced as part of the NEB's mandate to promote safety, environmental protection and economic efficiency in the regulation of pipelines, energy development and trade. Focus on Safety 2000-2002 - A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Safety Performance may be requested from the NEB at 403/299-3562, FAX 403/292-5576, E-mail publications@neb-one.gc.ca, or viewed on its Web site, www.neb-one.gc.ca.

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