Pipeline Safety Regimes in Canada

Map of CanadaYukon: Limited or no pipeline infrastructureNorthwest TerritoriesNunavut: Limited or no pipeline infrastructureBritish ColumbiaAlbertaSaskatchewanManitobaOntarioQuebecNew BrunswickNova ScotiaPEI: Limited or no pipeline infrastructureNewfoundland: Limited or no pipeline infrastructureNewfoundland: Limited or no pipeline infrastructure
Text version - Map of Canada

101 pipeline companies regulated by the National Energy Board
73,000 km of pipelines regulated by the National Energy Board
$162 billion/year - the value of energy products transported via pipeline (2014)
1,200 million barrels/year of oil transported via pipeline
5,000 billion cubic feet/year of natural gas produced and transported via pipeline

A product of the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference


Federal Pipeline Regulatory Regime

With 825,000 kilometres of transmission, gathering and distribution pipelines in Canada, most provinces have significant pipeline infrastructure. Federal pipeline regulators regulate 101 companies which operate approximately 73,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada.

Federal Pipeline Regulators

National Energy Board

The National Energy Board (NEB) is an independent federal agency that regulates cross-border pipelines. The role of the NEB is to make sure pipeline companies meet strict requirements to keep Canadians and the environment safe.

Transportation Safety Board

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) conducts independent investigations into accidents and incidents such as major pipeline spills. The mandate of the TSB is to identify and publicly report the causes and contributing factors, and to make recommendations to eliminate or reduce any identified safety issues.


The National Energy Board Act is the legal framework that ensures that federally-regulated pipelines are designed, constructed, operated and abandoned in a manner that is safe for the public and the environment. Regulations made under this Act, such as the National Energy Board Onshore Pipeline Regulations, require that companies design safety management, environmental protection, emergency management, third-party crossing, public awareness, and integrity programs, which are reviewed and audited by the NEB.

Pipelines and equipment must meet Canadian Standards Association specifications. The CSA Standard Z662 — Oil and Gas Pipeline Systems sets out the technical standards for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of Canada’s oil and gas pipelines.

The NEB is responsible for conducting environmental assessments for the projects it regulates in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

The NEB conducts ongoing pipeline monitoring, inspections, and site visits, and can issue mandatory compliance orders. The NEB also tracks the safety record of pipelines under its jurisdiction to demonstrate continual improvement.

In June 2015, the Pipeline Safety Act received Royal Assent and will come into force in 12 months. Certain provisions may come into force earlier by proclamation by the Governor in Council. The Act enshrines the polluter-pays principle into law, clarifies audit and inspection powers of the NEB, and ensures companies remain responsible for their abandoned pipelines. The Government of Canada is also seeking the NEB’s guidance on the use of best available technologies used in federally regulated pipeline projects. This includes materials, construction methods, and emergency response techniques.

Preparedness and Response

The NEB must be notified immediately of any release that occurs on federally regulated pipelines. In an emergency situation, the NEB’s top priority is to make sure that people are safe and secure, and that property and the environment are protected.

A company’s Emergency Procedures Manual, which must be submitted to the NEB, guides response and containment of a release with appropriate equipment.

Pipeline companies must have incident first-responders and continually educate all first-responders, such as fire departments and police, on procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency.

When an emergency occurs, the NEB:

The Pipeline Safety Act requires companies to hold a minimum level of readily accessible financial resources to help ensure rapid incident response, and authorizes the NEB to assume control of a response in exceptional circumstances, if a company operating a pipeline is unable or unwilling to shoulder its responsibilities.

Liability and Compensation

The pipeline company is liable for all remediation costs if at fault or negligent. The NEB can also order remediation. The company may also be subjected to administrative penalties or other enforcement actions.

Companies can be prosecuted for certain violations of the National Energy Board Act, with fines ranging from $100,000 to $1 million and imprisonment from one to five years. The NEB can impose Administrative Monetary Penalties to individuals or companies for infractions, ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 per day per violation. Violators may be subject to prosecution and fines under other federal legislation.

The Pipeline Safety Act enshrines in law the “polluter pays” principle, under which companies have unlimited liability when at fault or negligent; introduces absolute liability for all NEB-regulated companies, meaning that beyond existing unlimited liability if at fault or negligent, companies will be liable for all costs and damages up to $1 billion regardless of fault; provides governments the ability to pursue pipeline operators for the costs of environmental damages; authorizes the NEB to order reimbursement of governments and individuals for certain incident costs; and, expands NEB authority to recover from industry all costs they incur for incident response.

Find out more


Users are reminded that this publication has no legislative sanction. It has been consolidated for convenience of reference only. Original Regulations should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting the law.