Pipelines remain the safest method of transporting the energy Canadians need

Canada’s pipeline operators are experts in emergency management

By the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association

Canada’s transmission pipeline operators are working together to reach a lofty goal: Zero incidents. They are close, with 99.999 per cent of all oil and gas products transported through their pipelines reaching markets safely, but there is still work to be done.

Through the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), companies are working together to continuously improve in key areas including safety, environmental protection and emergency response.

CEPA members work tirelessly to prevent incidents from happening and, because of that preparation, emergencies are very rare. They are also experts in emergency management and are ready to respond if something does go wrong. Long before a pipeline is laid in the ground, pipeline operators have emergency response plans in place. These plans are complex, detailed and cover a wide range of possible situations and scenarios.

Incident management

If an incident happens, CEPA’s member companies jump into action immediately, taking full responsibility for the situation. With their emergency response plans activated, the focus is on:


  • Stopping any possible leaks by shutting down systems quickly and safely
  • Notifying adjacent landowners and stakeholders, including regulators
  • Dispatching first responders and cleanup crews
  • Getting spill response equipment to the site
  • Containing the released product to minimize spreading
  • Ensuring the safety of the public, employees and contractors
  • Protecting wildlife, water bodies and vegetation
  • Repairing the pipeline
  • Cleaning up, remediating and restoring the site
  • Long-term monitoring of the site to determine if any further action is required


The primary focus of responding to an emergency is protecting employees, communities and the environment.

After an incident, CEPA members are committed to returning the land, water and environment to its previous state. They do this using advanced clean-up and remediation processes and technology. Clean-up specialists, biologists and other environmental experts arrive on the scene within hours to assess and repair the cause of the leak and start clean-up.

Crews use specialized equipment, such as barriers, pumps, booms and skimmers (depending on the environment they are dealing with), to stop the spread of oil and clear it from the land and water. They work for as long as it takes to clean up the spill, and the affected areas are monitored for a period of time after reclamation is complete to ensure long-term damage is minimized.

Powerful collaboration

To ensure the safety of communities, CEPA members work closely with local first responders and other pipeline operators during an incident. There are two important agreements in place:

  • Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. This was signed in 2016, creating an incident command system. A key component of the agreement is firefighter awareness and training, to help ensure both the safety and timeliness of first responders.
  • Mutual Emergency Assistance Agreement. Signed in 2013, this agreement allows CEPA members to request assistance from each other during an emergency in the form of personnel, equipment, tools or specialized response advice. It’s an arrangement that considerably increases the resources available in an emergency.

Practice, practice, practice

During an emergency, time is of the essence. Pipeline companies practice their emergency response protocols regularly, so that if a real incident happens, they know exactly what to do—having already been through the process several times.

Employees who participate in practice scenarios and respond to real-life incidents also have constant access to specialized emergency response equipment placed strategically at various sites, so they can act quickly to minimize the impact to communities and the environment.

Pipelines remain the safest method of transporting the energy Canadians need. Should an incident ever occur, CEPA members are ready, able and equipped to respond in a safe and timely manner.

For more information on pipelines and the industry’s emergency response procedures, visit aboutpipelines.com.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate about 135,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada and the United States. In 2016, these energy highways moved approximately 1.4 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.4 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.


Pipeline Observer


Landowner-driven, CAEPLA advocates on behalf of farmers, ranchers, and other rural landowners to promote safety and environmental protection through respect for your property rights.