April 9-16, 2007

NEB reports steady improvement in pipeline safety, environmental performance

The environmental and safety performance of Canada's pipelines has shown a steady improvement, as indicated by statistics in the National Energy Board (NEB)'s report, Focus on Safety and Environment: A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance, 2000-2005.

For the eighth year in a row, there were no fatalities and for the third straight year, there were no ruptures on NEB-regulated pipelines, says the NEB's fifth annual safety report card. The report reviews the safety, integrity and environmental performance of the 45,000 kilometres of pipeline regulated by the National Energy Board.

A rupture, which is a loss of containment that impairs the operation of the pipeline, can cause explosions, fire and even death. The absence of such incidents compares favourably with the period between 1991 and 2002, when an average of 2.5 NEB-regulated pipelines ruptured every year. This improvement is attributed primarily to integrity management programs, which have been compulsory since 1999.

"We were the first regulator in North America to direct pipeline companies to introduce integrity management programs and I believe these programs are contributing to pipeline safety, said NEB chairman Kenneth Vollman. "In the past three years there have been no fatalities and no ruptures on NEB-regulated pipelines. We're very encouraged by these results."

The NEB reports that 39 liquid leaks were reported last year on Board-regulated pipelines. Many of these leaks are associated with everyday operations involving pipeline components, such as valves, pumps and storage tanks, rather than releases from the actual pipe body. Generally, the volume from an individual leak is quite small, perhaps only a few litres; in 2005, however, more than 6,598 barrels leaked from NEB-regulated liquid pipelines. Nearly the entire volume was the result of a large leak at a pipeline terminal, where the product was contained within the company's own facility.

Although a release from the pipe body is relatively rare--the Board's six-year average is 0.05 liquid releases per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline--there were two liquid releases on NEB-regulated pipelines in 2005. A release is caused by a hole or crack in the pipe body itself. These two releases occurred at a pipeline terminal and a pump station and both were contained within the facilities.

The report notes an encouraging drop in the injury rate for contract pipeline workers. The injury frequency for contract workers fell more than 50%, from just over three injuries per 100 full time equivalents in 2003 to 1.1 injuries per 100 full time equivalents in 2005. However, contract workers are still being injured more frequently than workers directly employed by pipeline companies, notes the report.

The report singles out several areas where pipeline performance indicators could be improved including:

*improved harmonization of reporting standards between the NEB, other regulators and industry organizations;

*requesting throughput data through the Safety Performance Indicators initiative;

*consulting with industry representatives on approaches to capture the economic costs and environmental impacts of leaks, releases and spills;

*developing leading indicators for safety, integrity and protection of the environment, and

*working with companies to find leading indicators that provide meaningful information to the pipeline industry.

Focus on Safety and Environment: A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance, 2000-2005, may be viewed on the Board's Web site, www.neb-one.gc.ca.

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