Pipelines safer than rail or truck for oil: report

Transporting oil by pipelines is significantly safer for workers and carries lower risk of spills than moving it by train or truck, a new report from the Fraser Institute says. Analyzing data from Canada’s National Energy Board and the US Department of Transportation going back to the year 2000, the report’s authors find that  pipelines result in fewer spillage incidents and personal injuries than road and rail in North America.

The report’s authors call the present situation, in which oil and gas production is outpacing the ability to transport it, a “transport conundrum” that must be solved. Relying more on rail and truck to transport oil is not the solution, they argue, because those forms of transport carry higher risks of spills and personal injuries than pipelines.

oil-leaks-rail-transport-Canada-safety-pipeline-EDIWeekly
A report from the Fraser Institute finds that transporting oil and gas by pipeline is safer than doing so by rail.

With oil production in North America currently at 18 million barrels a day, a number that could reach 27 million barrels a day by 2020, the question of how to transport oil remains a pressing one. In Canada, 97 per cent of all natural gas and petroleum products are currently transported via pipelines, the report says.

The evidence is clear: transporting oil by pipeline is safe and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, pipeline transportation is safer than transportation by road, rail, or barge, as measured by incidents, injuries, and fatalities- even though more road and rail incidents go unreported.

Intermodal safety in the transport of oil

There are 825,000 kilometres of pipeline in Canada and about five times that much in the US. In the US from 2005 to 2009, there were more “serious” incidents, injuries and fatalities resulting from the shipment of oil by road and rail than by pipeline.

Accounting for the superior safety and environmental performance of pipelines is the “genius” of the technology, which has the shipping container remain static while the commodity moves. According to the report, there are an average of 20 spills per billion ton-miles in trucking, two in rail shipping, and 0.6 in pipelines. Pipeline spills release more oil, however, than either road or rail spills. The report maintains that despite the relatively higher quantities of oil released, it is still “miniscule” when taken in the context of the total quantities being shipped each day.

The ten-year average for the frequency of liquid leaks is “approximately three leaks per 1,000 km of pipeline” the report says, citing the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers for that statistic.

Fatalities for pipeline workers averaged 0.2 per year from 2000 to 2009, it says. The rate of rail-related fatalities, by contrast, was 91 in 2010 and has a five-year average of 81. Measured by ton-miles, the rate of injuries associated with shipping by pipelines was just 0.00687 injuries requiring hospitalization per billion ton-miles; rail caused 30 times that many injuries.

Did you miss this?

Other Popular Stories

  • Canadian work in composite materials honoured with innovation awards
  • West Coast group looking at LNG as marine fuel
  • Energy storage system uses rail cars, gravity to mimic hydro
  • In a massive victory for the hydrogen vs. electric battery debate, the Toyota Mirai broke the world record for driving on one fill of hydrogen with 623 miles (1,003 km) in late May.
    Hydrogen Mileage World Record – Toyota Mirai Breaks Through: 623 miles or 1,003 km "Victory for Hydrogen vs. Electric"
  • Drivers want hydrogen-fueled cars says Hyundai
  • Self-Driving Cars: Virtual Reality's role in "boredom on the road" for passengers of autonomous vehicles
  • 50,000 smaller Ontario manufacturers miss out on the 17 per-cent cut to electricity bills
  • New super batteries could change electric vehicle industry
  • Ford investment in Oakville gets auto industry "on the move again"
  • Canada's prosperity at risk from disruption, lack of skilled workforce: reports
  • Canada's exports soared in June while imports fell
  • Wind more economical than nuclear: offshore wind turbines in U.K. significantly less expensive per megawatt than planned nuclear
  • Manufacturing slowdown reflects oil and dollar declines
  • $3.4 Million Invested in Hypercar with Sharper, Faster Turns
  • General Motors Planning Autonomous Vehicles Sans Controls
  • Move to autonomous cars gains momentum with CES announcements, more expected from Detroit auto show
  • Manufacturing takes a hit as water heater plant closes in Fergus
  • Bombardier to build 170 high-speed rail cars for Siemens
  • Progress made on Detroit River cleanup: fish no longer smells
  • Blowing up the Moon for Water? Space Miners Aim to "Mine Water" as Early as 2023
Scroll to Top