Pipeline applications 101

We are on a quest to provide Canadians with a Regulatory Roadmap for understanding the rules that govern Canada’s pipeline network. A couple of weeks ago, we explained who decides whether or not pipelines get built. This week, we want to shed some light on what information is included in an application to build a pipeline.

Just a little refresher, when a pipeline company wants to build a new pipeline it must submit an application to the proper regulator for approval before the project can go ahead.

What’s included in an application?


Application reviewSubmitting a pipeline application is not as simple as filling out a form. For major projects, applications can take years to prepare and can cost the company proposing the project millions of dollars. The length of these applications can make “War and Peace” seem short; they can be thousands of pages long.

To get some insight on the extensive application process, we talked to Rick Neufeld, a partner at Dentons Canada LLP. Neufeld is an expert on regulatory law and has acted as legal counsel on high-profile pipeline applications.

When we asked him what’s included in an application for a major pipeline project, Neufeld broke it down into five main components for us.

Five components of pipeline applications

[This list refers to applications to the National Energy Board (NEB)] 

1.  The applicant must show that construction of the pipeline is in the public interest.

“They need to show there is a compelling economic need (for the pipeline),” said Neufeld.

2. The applicant must provide evidence showing the pipeline will be constructed in a safe way.

Neufeld explained that a lot of detail is required in this part of the application to show the pipeline company will use best engineering practices and the best materials both in the construction and the operation of the pipeline.

3. A major part of the application is environmental and socio-economic assessment.


This assessment has become a major component of the pipeline-application process.

“Very detailed studies are required involving an array of experts and disciplines,” said Neufeld.

He pointed out that an environmental and socio-economic assessment could include information on socio-economic conditions, historical resources, archeological resources, vegetation, wildlife, soils, hydrology, water courses, fisheries and traditional uses of land by Aboriginal peoples.

4. Pipeline companies must show that they have engaged with the public and Aboriginal people along the proposed route.

“The NEB will look at an application and if it doesn’t think the public engagement has been sufficient, it won’t set it down for hearing. It will tell the applicant to go back and talk to the public some more,” said Neufeld.

5. Companies must provide information on emergency-response planning and environmental-management planning.

This component, Neufeld explained, shows the regulator how the companies are going to meet the commitments they made in the application.

Curious about how the proposed route is chosen? Check out this video:

Want more information on pipeline regulations? Take a look at CEPA’s newly launched Regulatory Roadmap. It’s an interactive, multi-media program that sheds light on the complexities of pipeline regulation in Canada.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.