The AER regulates more than 422 000 kilometres of oil and gas pipelines and provides inspection and incident response support for an additional 12 000 kilometres of pipelines regulated by the Alberta Utilities Commission. The majority of the pipelines that the AER is responsible for are smaller lines that connect individual wells to gathering facilities for treatment or processing, which then connect to larger-diameter lines. Oil and gas pipelines that cross provincial or federal borders are regulated by the National Energy Board.
The AER ensures that the design, construction, operation, and maintenance—including discontinuation and abandonment—of regulated pipelines comply with Alberta’s Pipeline Act, Pipeline Regulation, and applicable Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards.
We require operators to implement comprehensive integrity management programs and safety and loss management systems to identify, manage, monitor, and address potential hazards associated with each individual pipeline. Pipelines carrying only liquid hydrocarbons must also meet leak requirements outlined in the Pipeline Rules, CSA Z662-15: Oil and Gas Pipeline Systems, and Directive 077: Pipelines—Requirements and Reference Tools.
To ensure that operators are meeting all requirements, we regularly inspect pipelines. Our inspections consider the risks of individual pipelines and look at pipeline fluid characteristics, location, line size, failure history, and the operator’s compliance history. Pipelines with greater risks—such as those that transport sour gas, are near water bodies, or belong to a licensee with poor compliance history—receive greater scrutiny.
If the AER believes that an operator is unable to meet requirements, or if there is a risk to the public or the environment, we can immediately suspend the pipeline until the problems are corrected. Compliance and enforcement decisions are available on our compliance dashboard and range from warning letters, administrative penalties, orders, and prosecutions.
The AER also has an industry performance program that sets the foundation for measuring, evaluating, and reporting on energy development activities that we regulate and focuses on moving beyond compliance to improving operator performance. The data we collect helps identify those who are not following requirements or who have had more incidents than similar operators, so we can work with them to improve their performance—whether that means conducting more frequent inspections and audits, educating them on pipeline integrity, or taking enforcement action to deter future missteps.
To learn more about the full cycle of pipeline regulation in Alberta, watch our video Alberta's Pipelines: Compliance in Action.