Incidents, investments and safety: Canada’s pipelines in 2017

This is part of a blog post series about the performance of the pipeline industry as detailed in the 2018 Transmission Pipeline Industry Performance Report. You can read the full report at

In 2017, CEPA members safely delivered over 1.4 billion barrels of crude oil and 5.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. And while the number of significant incidents has trended down over the past five years, there was an increase in pipeline incidents this year.

Why did this happen and what does it mean? These answers and more can be found in the 2018 Transmission Pipeline Industry Performance Report. This report shares the pipeline industry’s performance in the areas Canadians told us they want to know more about.

It highlights where we are improving and where we need to do better. Here’s a look at some of the 2017 data:

1. Incidents increased, but so did barrels recovered. There were 19 incidents on CEPA member rights-of-way – three of these were significant. Two occurred on liquids pipelines – one was a puncture caused by third-party excavation equipment and one was a result of metal loss. 7,447 barrels were spilled and 7,396 were recovered for these two incidents. This represents a remediation rate of 99.3%.

The significant incident on a natural gas pipeline was also caused by third-party damage, resulting in a small release of 21,789 cubic feet, or .000049 per cent of total natural gas shipped.

As two of the significant incidents were the result of third-party excavation equipment, these learnings will be incorporated into contractor procedures.

Here’s a glimpse of how our industry has performed over the past five years with regards to incidents.


pipeline incidents2. The number of emergency response exercises continues to rise. Emergency preparedness is one of the most important safety measures for our members. In 2017, CEPA members held 542 emergency response exercises ranging in complexity from table top exercises to full-scale exercises. Over the last four years, CEPA members have held an average of 400 exercises annually – that’s more than one for every day of the year.

pipeline emergency response3. Most incidents occur in facilities, not public spaces. In fact, 80 per cent of natural gas and liquids releases happened within the fence of the company’s facilities, which poses less risk to the public because the product is contained within the facility with barriers. In 2017, there were 74 incidents that occurred in facilities reported by our members, which were quickly responded to.

4. There were zero fatalities. In 2017, 13,376 people who worked for CEPA members returned home at the end of each day. However, we did see a 16 per cent increase in the injury rate and a 9 per cent increase in the motor vehicle incident rate compared to 2016. Our members continue to drive improved safety management in their organizations by adhering to regulatory requirements, company policies and creating a healthy safety culture.

5. CEPA members invested in safety. Approximately $1.6 billion was invested in maintenance and monitoring in 2017, up from $1.2 billion in 2016. This includes doing integrity digs and investing in technology. In fact, more than 30 per cent of CEPA members’ 117,800 kilometres of pipeline in Canada was inspected by one or more in-line inspection tools in 2017.

pipeline monitoring6. And they also invested in communities. In 2017, CEPA members spent $4.1 billion in Canadian communities on personnel, services and equipment. This includes $261 million of goods and services from Indigenous suppliers. Besides this operational spend, our members also invested $30.2 million in community initiatives, including $4 million to Indigenous communities.


Our members are always striving for continuous improvement. Central to this is our goal of zero incidents as outlined in CEPA’s  Integrity First program. We’re not quite there yet; but we’re working towards it every day. Learn more about the pipeline industry’s performance at