Pipelines provide safest form of energy transportation
SOURCE: Enbridge, Inc.
"The actual safety record of the Canadian energy pipeline industry is world-class," said Brenda Kenny, President and CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA). "Canadian transmission pipeline companies move 1.2 billion barrels of crude and refined petroleum products and 5.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year. From 2002 and 2009, the average annual volume released from liquids pipelines was just two litres for every million litres transported—in other words, 99.9998 percent of the product was transported safely."
Significant pipeline failures on transmission pipelines—the main energy highways for transporting oil and gas—are rare. Based on recent National Energy Board data, ruptures on federally regulated pipelines during the eight-year period from 2001 to 2008 averaged less than one a year.
And according to CEPA statistics, pipelines are more feasible and safer than alternative modes of transportation. Take the transportation of crude oil, for example. Transmission pipelines in Canada carry about three million barrels of crude each day to markets across the continent. To transport the same volume of crude each day would require an additional 1,500 rail cars or 15,000 tanker truck loads each day. Kenny says this kind of rail or tanker transportation would cause increases in environmental emissions, more congestion on roads and greater risk of accidents.
"Underground pipelines are inherently safer than other ways of transportation," said Kenny. "In addition, crude oil pipeline transportation has a lower input energy requirement and a smaller carbon footprint than other transportation modes."
This record for safety is also backed by data from Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB), which shows the number of accidents and incidents on federally regulated pipelines remains low, especially compared to other types of transportation. Each year this independent agency tracks and reports on the safety of pipelines, rail, air and marine transportation across the country. According to the TSB's latest annual report, pipelines experienced 10 percent of all reported incidents during 2010.
South of the border it's been a similar story for pipelines.
According to the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL), an industry association representing liquid pipeline transmission companies in the United States, the total number of pipeline spills per 1,000 miles in the U.S. has declined by 59 percent from 2001 to 2009. At the same time, the volume of releases per 1,000 miles has decreased by 41 percent. This has occurred at a time when pipelines have increased their share of energy transportation in the country.
"The record for liquids pipelines in the U.S. has improved significantly over the last decade," said AOPL President and CEO Andy Black. "Each of the major failure causes has gone down. The different strategies pipeline operators are using are helping to improve safety. Operators have improved on their methods of protection of pipe, and they're getting smarter on using inspection tools and understanding the data."
"Today pipelines are not only the cheapest way to send fuel over long distances in the U.S., they're also the safest, measured either in injuries or in volume released. This is compared to rail, truck and barge," added Black.
Click here to watch a YouTube video about how Enbridge builds, operates, and maintains its pipelines system.
KEYWORDS: pipeline, pipelines, safety
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