Resource is brought to you by the Alberta Energy Regulator.
Alberta - May 14, 2018

Pipelines are in the headlines a lot these days as Canadians question whether they’re safe. New data released by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) demonstrates that pipeline operators are doing a better job of keeping the product where it belongs.

The AER’s Pipeline Performance Report shows that pipeline incidents continued to decline in 2017, pointing to better performance while highlighting where improvements are needed.

The data paints a picture about where we need to focus our attention on as a regulator and where industry needs to focus in terms of how to construct and operate their pipeline,

David Helmer, AER director of pipelines

“The data paints a picture about where we need to focus our attention on as a regulator and where industry needs to focus in terms of how to construct and operate their pipeline,” says David Helmer, the AER’s director of pipelines in the Industry Operations branch. “It tells companies how they stand up to their peers, which we hope will encourage them to improve their performance and set the bar higher.”

The Pipeline Performance Report is part of the AER’s industry performance program—an effort to measure, evaluate, and report on all energy development activities and ultimately hold companies accountable for their actions.

Here are five things that are good to know about pipeline performance in Alberta.

  1. Performance is improving.
    Pipeline companies are better at managing the risks—pipeline incidents dropped by almost half over the last decade, while the number of high-consequence incidents fell by six per cent in 2017 from the previous year.
  2. Sometimes it’s only a drip.
    In Alberta, all incidents must be reported to the AER. This includes ones with little or no liquid released, drips from loose valves, or hits on pipelines during digging that caused no leaks. Most incidents have little impact on the public, wildlife, or the environment; about two-thirds of incidents in 2017 released less than one cubic metre of substance.
  3. All pipeline incidents are preventable.
    Our data shows that almost all pipeline failures are caused by problems that can be avoided, such as internal corrosion, which is the leading cause of pipeline failures. While the AER enforces the rules, each company must do its part to make its pipelines safe by regularly maintaining them and using the appropriate safety systems.
  4. Every incident has a story.
    Each incident tells a story about what went wrong and what needs to change. The data we collect on pipeline incidents allows us to analyze and learn from trends. We share that information with pipeline companies to prevent these incidents from being repeated.
  5. Data informs decisions.
    By measuring company performance, we’re able to see which companies need more attention to prevent future incidents. We focus on companies with worse records, especially those that have had repeated high-consequence incidents or a history of poor compliance. This includes inspecting their operations more often, educating them about our requirements and expectations, and helping them understand how they can improve performance.

The AER rates the consequence of each incident as high, medium, or low based on criteria that consider the impacts on the public, wildlife, and the environment. 

High consequence: Incidents that could have significant impact on the public, wildlife, or the environment, or that involve the release of a substance that affects a large area or water body.

Medium consequence: Incidents that could have a moderate impact on the public, wildlife, or the environment, but that have no impact on a flowing water body.

Low consequence: Incidents that involve little to no substance release; have little to no impact on the public, wildlife, and the environment; and have no impact on a water body.

In the media

Alberta pipeline incident rate fell in 2017
May 10, 2018

AER Report: Pipeline Incidents Cut In Half In Last Ten Years
May 10, 2018

Leaving a comment? You should know this:

We welcome all comments, and encourage you to be part of the discussion by sharing your thoughts and opinions on Resource stories. When leaving a comment, know that your first and last names will appear, but not your email. Also, all comments must adhere to the AER’s General Social Media Terms of Use and will be reviewed against these terms, which means that we may choose to publish only part or none of the comment. This also means that comments will not be published immediately.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Story Comments

Paul Wood

There have been a couple of pipeline incidents in the province for sure but this is the exception not the norm. I see the AER as an infiltration of NDP ideals. You don’t represent the energy industry interests. You are the operational arm of the Leap Manifesto. You are neither champion of the environment, people of your constituents or industry but a slow road to nowhere for Alberta’s energy industry. The elected government has no business in one operational component of a jurisdiction’s government. The NDP should have only a mere opinion in how the AER functions and zero operational influence. You are the fox in the hen house, an organization that abolishes and undermines our vast resources rather than celebrates our provinces advantage. Take a strand in the right direction! If you are going to condem pipelines and our resources step it up and help your industry partners rather than condem them. Actions speak volumes and what it speaks right now is corruption and collaboration with the leap manifesto ideals. Shame on you!


I love the work being done so far cause I don't have a problem at but I think the maintenance agency has to improved in checking pipelines regularly

Abdullah Abdul

I think this information has helped greatly

Geoff. F.

You are a “regulator” not a booster, but I feel you need to get involved with the Feds to sort out the infernal mess they have made with environmental assessment, and public consultation.
An EA covers natural environment, social issues, and economics, despite what many people believe, and this needs to be balanced. We can not have zealots saying issue X outweighs everything else, as happens routinely now. We are nowhere near a “no carbon” world at present, so we need to utilise our oil sands effectively while transitioning to renewables. We also need tidewater access to the east coast as well as west coast and our own refineries geared to heavy oil refining to reduce the gouging we enjoy from our “friends” down south. There needs to be a well thought out model for public consultation with time limits. We can not allow the zealots, foreign interests, and those looking to be bought out, or for a handout to drag this process out until the proponent quits in frustration. All this nonsense does is mean we buy more foreign oil, and look more and more like some disfunctional backwater that is not worth being even considered for investment by the industry.

Geoff. F.

On a detailed point, your definitions of consequence in the report need some clarification, IMO.
High consequence mentions “water body”, but does the adjective “large” apply as the sentence structure implies?
Medium consequence mentions “flowing water body”. What about a lake in a hollow? Do the other categories imply only flowing or not?
Low consequence mentions only “water body”.
Consistency? Tighter language is needed in your definitions.

Lynn Graham

Very informative. I wasn't aware all of this was being done so proactively.

Resource Editor

Hi Geoff,
The information on consequence ratings in this story is meant to provide a high-level description of how we classify the severity of an incident. For more details on the criteria used to determine the consequence rating, please visit the glossary tab of our Pipeline Performance Report, which can be found at > Protecting What Matters > Industry Performance > Pipeline Performance. If you have further questions, please contact our Customer Contact Centre at


Sign up for our stories!