Progress to zero incidents

The number of significant incidents increased from one in 2016 to three in 2017. No incident is acceptable, and all CEPA members are committed to getting to zero incidents.

However, we are proud of the performance of our members when faced with incidents, and although the volume of product released rose significantly last year, of the 7,447 barrels spilled, only 51 barrels were unrecovered. Some of the oil not recovered is dissipated through volatization (similar to evaporation) and other natural processes. Remaining oil is removed through remediation. That’s out of 1.4 billion barrels transported in 2017.

Key information

  • CEPA measures and reports on members’ performance in the most sensitive areas — on member rights-of-way.
  • A significant incident is defined as one or more of the following:
    – Serious injury or fatality
    – Liquid release of greater than 8 cubic metres (50 barrels)
    – Unintentional ignition or fire
    – Rupture or break of a pipeline
Overview Data
Overview Data
Overview Data

Released due to unplanned incidents on rights-of-way (released natural gas quickly dissipates into the air). While the one significant incident was small (21,789 cubic feet), the incident was categorized as significant because the failure mode was a rupture (caused by third-party damage). As a percentage of natural gas shipped compared to released: 0.000049 per cent.

Overview Data

Remaining after initial recovery (7,447 barrels spilled and 7,396 barrels recovered) from total amount of product spilled on rights-of-way. Some of the product not recovered is dissipated through volatilization (similar to evaporation) and other natural processes. Remaining product is removed through remediation. As a percentage of crude oil transported compared to remaining: 0.000004 per cent.

19 Total liquids and natural gas rights-of-way incidents

The information in this report covers incidents on CEPA member rights-of-way (ROW) in Canada for 2017. Our focus is on ROW as they represent close to 100 per cent of the network and present the greatest exposure to the public. There were 19 incidents on our members’ ROW. Two significant liquid pipeline incidents had an estimated liquid release of 7,403.1 barrels (out of a total liquid release of 7,447 barrels for all incidents), which is 99 per cent of total reported liquid releases in 2017. One of these incidents was the result of a pipeline being accidentally ruptured by excavation equipment. The other was caused by metal loss. One significant gas pipeline incident was very small (21,789 cubic feet). The incident was caused by external interference (third-party damage).

Liquids and natural gas incidents


Total incidents includes significant incidents. Only a small percentage of pipeline incidents are severe enough to meet the criteria of “significant.” A significant incident includes one or more of the following that occur on members’ rights-of-way:

  • A serious injury or fatality
  • A liquid release of greater than 8 cubic metres (50 barrels)
  • Produced an unintentional ignition or fire
  • Resulted in a rupture or break of a pipeline

The majority of pipeline incidents are minor, such as small pinhole leaks. These minor incidents must be addressed but pose little risk to the public or the environment. All data on incidents can also be accessed from federal and provincial regulators, including the NEB and AER.


“Geotechnical” refers to damage by floods or landslides. “External interference” refers to damage by third parties. “Other” refers to control system malfunction, improper operation, lightning, fire and unknown. “Metal loss” is primarily caused by corrosion.


In 2017, there were four liquid pipeline spills, of which two were significant. A total of 7,447 barrels were released and, of those, 7,396 barrels were recovered.


Total unplanned product released from our members’ natural gas pipelines in 2017 was approximately 2.8 million cubic feet (or 79.6 e3m3).

Locations of significant incidents in 2017

  • Liquids pipelines
  • Natural gas pipelines
Pipeline Type: Liquids
Incident Type: Rupture
Cause: External interference
Volume released: 6,516.25 barrels
Volume recovered: 6,516.25 barrels
Date: Feb 17, 2017
Pipeline Type: Liquids
Incident Type: Leak
Cause: Metal loss
Volume released: 886.86 barrels
Volume recovered: 842.84 barrels
Date: Apr 21, 2017
Pipeline Type: Natural gas
Incident Type: Rupture
Cause: External interference
Volume released: 21,789 cubic feet
dissipated into atmosphere
Date: May 5, 2017

For information and exact locations of 2017 incidents and historic incidents, as well as detailed information about energy transmission pipelines that transport crude oil, natural gas and refined petroleum products within Canada, please visit

Anatomy of an incident.

Just as first responders are ready to respond at a moment’s notice, so are CEPA members. Incidents are rare, but when they happen, members are prepared to respond quickly and effectively.

To demonstrate emergency management principles, let us take you through the process that is initiated when an incident occurs. This process reflects the general practices of CEPA members, however the process for each member may differ slightly based on its particular operations.

Why incidents happen

In 2017, CEPA members moved 5.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.4 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products. Incidents resulted in 7,447 barrels of oil being released — all recovered except for 51 barrels (which are currently under remediation) — and the release of 2.8 million cubic feet of natural gas, which dissipates into the air.

CEPA members work together to continuously improve all aspects of their operations, including emergency preparedness, to reach our goal of zero incidents.

We know what causes the majority of incidents:*

  • Metal loss, which means reduction in the thickness of a pipe due to corrosion, erosion or other causes
  • Materials, manufacturing or construction defects
  • Cracking
  • Other causes may be related to weather or third party line strikes
Why incidents happen

“Geotechnical” refers to damage by floods or landslides. “External interference” refers to damage by third parties. “Other” refers to control system malfunction, improper operation, lightning, fire and unknown. “Metal loss” is primarily caused by corrosion.

Through the CEPA Integrity First® program, we are working to improve operational standards in all these areas.

*To differentiate higher-risk incidents, CEPA has adopted a set of criteria that defines “significant incident.” A significant incident includes one or more of the following: serious injury or fatality, liquid release of greater than 8 cubic metres (50 barrels), unintentional ignition or fire, or rupture or break of a pipeline.


The best way to deal with an incident is to prevent it from happening in the first place, or if it can’t be prevented, reduce the probability of the incident and/ or reduce the severity of the impact. To this end CEPA members collaborate and share best practices to deliver better pipeline design, construction and operations.

Integrity First initiatives enhance the ability to both prevent incidents and react to minimize their impact. Extensive continuous improvement programs make safe practices even safer in the areas of damage prevention, monitoring, inspection, leak detection, pipeline integrity and emergency management.


Discover our path to better delivery

Preparing for incidents

When incidents happen, we are prepared with well-developed emergency response capabilities, including plans, equipment and other resources. All CEPA members participate in exercises and training on an ongoing basis, in 2017 members held over 542 exercises.

CEPA members have strong relationships with all response partners, including first responders, various levels of government and other organizations, to ensure coordinated, effective response. Emergency response plans are developed based on an All Hazards approach, and regular training and joint emergency response exercises with first responders and member response teams are carried out to test those plans. Response time guidelines have also been established to ensure rapid and effective response to any incident. In addition, CEPA members have a Mutual Emergency Assistance Agreement (MEAA) to help one another when needed. This ensures that the industry comes together with shared resources and expertise in the unlikely event of an incident or spill.

Phase 1

Shut down the pipeline immediately once a leak is detected or suspected

All CEPA members have sophisticated control centres where technicians monitor pipelines 24/7. If there is any kind of incident, sensitive leak-detection systems sound an alarm and technicians shut down the pipeline immediately through Emergency Shutdown Devices. Valves located at key points in the line stop the flow or divert product to holding areas.

Phase 2

Launch emergency response plan (ERP)

The stakeholder engagement process is also launched at this phase if it hasn’t been done already. Provincial and federal government regulators and emergency services are notified, and notifications to local governments, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders can also be made.

Personnel are immediately dispatched to the incident location with a target of having the Incident Command System established in no more than two hours.

Every CEPA member has ERPs in place for a potential incident. CEPA members engage both federal and provincial government agencies, as well as other key stakeholders, in the development of ERPs. All government regulatory agencies have carefully developed guidelines for ERPs that CEPA members follow. To ensure coordinated, effective response between members and governments in case of an incident, members proactively provide their ERPs to provincial and federal regulatory agencies and local first responders. Each ERP outlines the process of handling the specific emergency in terms of the type of incident (natural gas or liquid) and the location.

An Incident Management System (IMS) is established to quickly coordinate emergency response to ensure that resources are used efficiently, and the public and emergency responders are safe. To ensure tight coordination, the IMS that CEPA members use adopts the principles of the Incident Command System (ICS), which is the same system most emergency management organizations in North America rely on.

Phase 3

Mobilize first responders

The stakeholder engagement continues to expand. In the case of incidents with serious safety risks, an ICS Public Information Officer and/or Liaison Officer may be assigned to keep media and stakeholders informed of critical information. A Safety Officer is also part of the ICS structure.

Initial company responders arrive at the site within a target of three hours.

At this point, the pipeline operator’s responders have arrived at the site to analyze the situation, repair the leak and start clean-up. For example, if it is an oil leak, crews build barriers to contain the oil and use pumps to move it into storage containers. CEPA members are always ready, with first responder crews and oil spill containment and recovery equipment (OSCAR units) standing by. These crews go through extensive training and exercises with municipal emergency services to prepare for any pipeline emergency.

Phase 4

Additional response equipment and crews arrive

In addition to stakeholder engagement and a media strategy, an incident-specific website may be launched to keep all interested parties up-to-date. Social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook might also be used to connect with stakeholders and keep the public informed.

Emergency equipment and crews arrive within a target of six hours (for oil incidents, additional crews arrive within 72 hours due to the heavy equipment required).

Additional heavy equipment and crews arrive on the scene, including biologists, environmental experts and clean-up specialists (crews like this remain on the site as long as it takes to clean up the area). At this stage, responders will request specialized crews to deal with the specific nature of the incident. For example, additional wildlife response units may be needed to protect wildlife by erecting fences, deploying deterrents and patrolling the site.

Phase 5

Determine the cause

Public communication channels remain open to keep the public up-to-date on progress. Investigation results will be shared with all CEPA members.

An investigation is launched to determine the cause. This may happen concurrently to other phases. The pipeline operator, provincial and federal regulators and other organizations work together to determine why the incident occurred. Depending on the incident, the Transportation Safety Board may also launch an independent investigation. Once the cause is known, steps are taken to reduce the chance of it happening again.

Phase 6


As remediation continues, progress reports may be regularly published. Stakeholder and media outreach strategies continue as required to keep the public informed during this phase. Once remediation is complete, social media, toll-free phone lines or email may be used as long-term stakeholder engagement tools.

After the appropriate efforts are made to recover the product, experts begin the process of returning the incident site to its original condition or in some cases better. A thorough environmental assessment is carried out to identify effects on soil and vegetation. Contaminated soil may be removed or cleaned on site. Vegetation will be restored or replaced. Biologists and environmental specialists then monitor the site — for years if necessary — to ensure damage has been repaired and the land restored.


Pipeline operator is liable for the spill

The Pipeline Safety Act clearly states Canadian pipeline companies are liable for the complete cost of a pipeline spill, should the company be at fault. In conjunction with the appropriate regulator, CEPA members will do whatever necessary to ensure the area is cleaned, remediated and reparations are made. For these reasons, major transmission pipeline operators must have a minimum of $1 billion in financial capacity to handle a spill.