Number of reported pipeline spills in Canada doubled over ten years

The number of pipeline spills in Canada has doubled over the past decade. A CBC report on the embattled pipeline industry found that total safety-related incidents, including fires and spills, rose from one to two per 1,000 kilometres of federally regulated pipeline. The actual numbers, taken from data supplied by the National Energy Board (NEB), were 45 incidents in the year 2000 and 142 in 2011.

One reason for the increase is likely simple aging: some of the pipelines have been in the ground for decades, and many have more oil flowing through them than previously. The combination of age and increased pressure means more failures.

oil-spill-arkansas-Pegasus-Exxon-pipeline-US-EDIWeekly
Heavy Canadian crude oil spilled from Pegasus pipeline in Arkansas, The line had been fitted with leak-detecting sensors but it ruptured anyway. It was built in the 1940s.

When spills alone are looked at, the increase is even more dramatic: reported spills have tripled over the last decade. All spills over 1,500 litres must be reported, and every gas leak. There were four reportable spills for every 10,000 kilometres in 2000, and thirteen per 10,000 kilometres in 2011. Most of the pipeline safety incidents occurred in British Columbia, followed by Alberta and Ontario.

The NEB, which oversees pipelines that cross international or provincial borders, and that includes approximately 71,000 kilometres of pipelines owned by 90 companies, attributes the increase in reported incidents to greater awareness among companies.

However some critics, especially opponents of major new pipelines like the Keystone XL, say that it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the pipeline companies become at building safety features into their lines, the lines will eventually fail, because they will not be maintained properly. A writer in Forbes magazine online cited the recent rupture of an Exxon pipeline in Arkansas, where 100,000 gallons of heavy (Canadian) crude poured into the streets of a neighbourhood whose residents didn’t even know it was there. The reason it leaked, the writer argues, is that it was old and had not been maintained, and  its owners didn’t care. The penalties they have to pay when a spill occurs are simply out of proportion to their corporate profits, a mere cost of doing business.

For a different spill, Exxon was fined close to $2 million, an amount that is laughably inadequate, according to the Forbes writer, for an industry that earns $50 billion in annual profits and enjoys $20 billion in tax breaks.

The Canadian pipeline industry, meanwhile, represented by the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association, says that it is working hard to achieve zero incidents, through a combination of risk-based management and new technologies.

Did you miss this?

Other Popular Stories

  • Is Clean Diesel a myth, or a yet-to-come promise?
  • Researchers Test Feasibility of EmDrive and Mach Effect Thrusters
  • Real-time oil leak tracking with PAH sensor from Norwegian Geotechnical Institute can precisely measure hydrocarbons in water around oil wells
  • Manufacturers and employers win with new Labour rules in Ontario; jobs did increase 17,600 in January 2019
  • Wind more economical than nuclear: offshore wind turbines in U.K. significantly less expensive per megawatt than planned nuclear
  • Tesla phenomenon will change both how cars are imagined and sold
  • Tesla now biggest car maker in California
  • Flying Brain to Assist Astronauts Aboard Space Station
  • Canada's economy grew in Q4, manufacturing up in December
  • Manufacturing sector saw slight improvement in August: RBC
  • Time running out for dealing with global greenhouse emissions: report
  • Pharma company shares surge on favourable Q2 report
  • Manufacturing output grew again in August
  • Jaguar Land Rover Set to Move Discovery Production from United Kingdom to Slovakia
  • Crude Oil Prices Uncertain as OPEC Meets to Discuss Supply
  • Bankrupt hockey skate manufacturer bought by Canadian investors
  • GE investment in Welland "Brilliant Factory" to bring 220 jobs
  • Worker mobility key to construction's labour shortage
  • Small business tax rate cut to 3.5 percent will only partially mitigate impact of minimum wage increases, both set for January 1 in Ontario
  • Manufacturing sector rebounded in February: Statistics Canada
Scroll to Top