April 4, 2005

NEB-regulated pipeline companies maintain top environmental, safety performance

The safety and environmental 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 such as Alberta's Energy and Utilities Board, the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety and Europe's CONCAWE.

The NEB's third annual Focus on Safety and Environment report, released last week, provides details on the safety performance of NEB-regulated oil and gas pipelines for the 2003 calendar year and compares the statistics to those from 2002, 2001 and 2000. The information in the report is derived from a number of sources, including incident reports submitted pursuant to the Onshore Pipeline Regulations, 1999, as well as data provided voluntarily by pipeline companies under the NEB's Safety Performance Indicators (SPI) initiative.

The Board uses six key indicators which provide meaningful measures of the safety and environmental performance of pipeline companies. These indicators include fatalities, injury frequencies, ruptures, unauthorized activities on the right of way, liquid hydrocarbon releases and gas releases.

There were no fatalities or pipeline ruptures reported in 2003, a trend which, although not included in the report, continued through 2004. The total number of liquid releases from NEB-regulated companies was 86 in 2003, up from74 in 2002. All but two of these involved spills of 1.5 cubic metres or less, reflecting an increase in voluntary reporting of smaller spills by these companies.

The frequency of pipeline releases reported by NEB-regulated companies was 0.07 spills per 1,000 kilometres. This is well below the average spill frequency of 0.32 spills per 1,000 km for the period from 2000 to 2003. The frequency also compares favourably with spill frequency data from external organizations such as the U.S Office of Pipeline Safety and Alberta's Energy and Utilities Board.

The majority (68%) of spills reported by NEB-regulated companies between 2000 and 2003 resulted from construction, maintenance and lubrication activities. Operational and pipe body spills made up the second leading cause, accounting for 27% of spills 1.5 cubic metres or more.

Releases of natural gas may occur due any of several causes, including loss of containment resulting from failure of the pipe body or of components within the pipeline system, or seepage at flanges through gaskets. Releases may also occur during the routine functioning of equipment, notes the report. Regardless of volume or cause, the Onshore Pipeline Regulations require the reporting of all gas releases from NEB-regulated pipeline systems. Regulated companies reported a total of nine natural gas releases in 2003; none of these were pipe body releases.

One concern raised in the report is the difference between employee and contractor injury frequency rates. Contractor injury frequency in 2003 was 3.04 injuries per 100 full time equivalent workers while the rate of injuries among company employees stood at 0.66 per 100 full time equivalent workers.

The Board intends to explore with the companies the reasons behind the contractor injury frequencies at the forthcoming NEB Workshop in June. At the workshop, the Board will consult with regulated companies to increase understanding of NEB processes, regulatory requirements and expectations while collaborating on regulatory improvements. Another topic of discussion will be a simplified, more practical reporting strategy for natural gas releases, recognizing that tracking of insignificant gas losses through flange connections does little to improve safety or to protect the environment.

Focus on Safety and Environment - A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Safety Performance 2000-2003 may be viewed on the NEB Web site, www.neb-one.gc.ca or requested from the NEB by telephone or E-mail, 403/299-3562, publications@neb-one.gc.ca, or by FAX, 403/292-5576.

The NEB Workshop 2005 will be held June 6-8 at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre. Attendance is free of charge, but participants are requested to register by May 27, 2005. The Board will be seeking insight and ideas for regulatory improvement from people who have a interest in the NEB, such as representatives of NEB-regulated companies; municipal, provincial and federal agencies; and industry associations.

The Workshop's key goals are: to communicate, to refine initiatives, to consult, to inform and to enhance. The sessions have been split up into seven streams: Regulatory Initiatives; Internal Initiatives; Environmental Protection; Safety Management; Integrity Management; Emergency Management; and Human Environment.

NEB environmental specialists Linda Postlewaite and Robert LeMay, are co-chairing the event. More information is available from either co-chair at lpostlewaite@neb-one.gc.ca or rlemay@neb-one.gc.ca, or on the NEB Web site noted above.

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