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Alberta Landowners Guide, Pipelines and Emergency Response

Landowners Guide Cover.jpg
3rd edition
Authors:            Duncan Kenyon, Nikki Way, Andrew Read, Barend Dronkers, Benjamin Israel, Binnu Jeyakumar, Nina Lothian
Publisher: Pembina Institute
Publish Date: October 2016
PDF Download: [Landowners' Guide]              [Landowners' Primer]                                                                    
Initiation Phase
Exploration Phase
Development Phase
Pipelines and Other Infrastructure
              Pipelines and Emergency Response
              Pipelines Regulated by AER
              Questions Before Signing a Pipeline Agreement
              Oil Batteries and Gas Compressor Plants
              Gas Plant Risks and Questions Regarding
               Other Infrastructure
Environmental Impacts
Abandonment and Reclamation
Compensation, Rights, and Hearings


The section examines the issues that you as a landowner or occupant need to consider when the construction of pipelines will occur near or across your land.[1] Although a company is required to provide you with some information, this chapter contains additional information and questions to ask when considering signing a pipeline right-of-way. For interprovincial or international pipelines, this section outlines the requirements that are governed by the National Energy Board.

Overview of Pipelines

Pipelines are used to transport oil and gas from wells to processing plants (e.g., oil batteries and gas plants) and from processing plants to market. Pipelines are also used to carry water that is produced by oil or gas wells (produced water) to processing plants so that it can be cleaned and disposed of. In unconventional production, pipelines also transport steam, CO2 and effluents for injection.

Pipelines come in different sizes and have different pressures, depending on the volume and type of fluid or gas they contain. A pipeline’s class, for regulatory purposes, is defined by an index that is based on a product of its size and length. Class II pipelines have an index less than 2690, and are generally small and/or short pipelines. Class II pipelines also include any pipeline regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB). All other pipelines are defined as Class I, and require approval from the Alberta Energy Regulator. Class is important, because it determines how environmental issues are handled (see Environmental issues).[2] Determination of the class of a pipeline under application is one of the first steps a landowner should take.

It is important to distinguish between pipelines that are regulated by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and those that are regulated by the NEB, since the requirements may differ.

The AER regulates the majority of energy pipelines in Alberta, but Alberta Infrastructure is responsible for low-pressure gas distribution lines. The NEB regulates all pipelines that cross provincial or national borders.[3]

Pipelines must be operated in compliance with Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards, specifically CSA ZA662, which are enforced by both the AER and NEB. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association is the professional body that represents all the major federally regulated pipeline companies in Canada (see Canadian Energy Pipeline Association for information on their landowner relations policy).

The beginning of a pipeline project involves contact with the energy company, a consultation and visit of the land agent who will discuss the route selection. Although the process of consultation and negotiation is similar to that for wells, there are different issues relating to pipelines that you need to consider. A good overview can be found in Pipelines in Alberta — What Farmers Need to Know.[4]

Rural gas distribution lines

The pipelines described in this section are gathering lines and transmission lines that operate at high pressure. Low-pressure gas distribution lines have different issues and requirements. There is no entry fee for gas distribution lines, as defined in the Gas Distribution Act.[5] To make rural gas distribution affordable, rural landowners customarily allow gas distribution lines on their property for a nominal one-dollar fee and a compensation payment for crop damages.[6]

Response to Problems and Emergency Response Plans

If problems such as leaks do occur, they are usually noticeable during construction or within two years of operation. One common problem area is clean-up of the right-of-way. Land cleared or used during construction is also supposed to be reclaimed to an equivalent original state; this too can be a source of conflict.

Pipeline trench sinking from inadequate backfilling, soil compaction or erosion and sedimentation should be compensated for by the company, as should drainage problems that include changes in the natural flow of water. Any slumping of land, and its reclamation to an equivalent state prior to pipeline installation, is the responsibility of the pipeline company. Compensation payments by the company include payment for crop loss and damages.

Common problems and suggestions for resolving them are listed in the Pipelines in Alberta document.[7]

If problems are not resolved, call or write the company. Failing this, the AER or the Farmers’ Advocate may offer assistance when the company is unable or unwilling to resolve the concern(s). If a portion of the pipeline becomes exposed, also notify the AER to ensure corrective work is completed. Also, when excavation work is planned be sure to consult the Safe Excavation Near Pipelines guide published by the AER, which lists all landowner and industry responsibilities.[8]

Disputes over damages are best resolved through an arbitration process with the company. When damages do not exceed $25,000 and are identified within two years of occurrence, they may be considered by the Surface Rights Board.

Emergency response plans

All companies are required to have a corporate emergency response plan (ERP) so that they know what action to take in the event of leaks from a pipeline and the risk of explosion.[9] For sweet gas pipelines and those with low levels of H2S, a corporate response plan is sufficient. For sour gas and oil effluent pipelines with higher levels of H2S (where the pipeline contains more than 10 mol/kmol of H2S), and for high vapour pressure lines, an emergency planning zone is calculated, and a specific ERP is required if there are occupied dwellings or campgrounds within the zone. The process is very similar to the ERP process for sour wells (see Emergency response plans).

In the case of sour gas and oil effluent pipelines, you should find out about the spacing between shut-off valves. In the case of a pipeline failure, these valves close to limit the amount of oil, gas or water that could escape to the amount between the valves. Companies should have the ability to shut down the pipeline and the shut-off valves automatically, as this is much quicker than manual shut-off. A company should report its threshold leak detection level — that is, the size of leak that would automatically result in a shutdown (as opposed to a small leak that could remain undetected).

Remember to “Call Before You Dig”: Call Alberta 1-Call at 1-800-242-3447 to locate pipelines and utility lines. Or “Click Before You Dig” at albertaonecall.com.

Pipelines Regulated by the National Energy Board

The National Energy Board (NEB) is an independent federal regulatory agency that is responsible for, among other things, approving the construction and operation of interprovincial and international pipelines. A hearing is required for any applications to construct a pipeline more than 40 kilometres long,[10] or for any other applications at the discretion of the NEB. The NEB does not get involved with pipelines that lie completely within the borders of a single province. Whereas for Alberta pipelines, responsibilities are shared among several boards and departments (including the AER, the Surface Rights Board), the NEB is responsible for almost all aspects of the planning, construction, operation and abandonment of an interprovincial or international pipeline.[11]

The issues involved in reviewing a transboundary pipeline application are similar to those for a provincial pipeline, as described in Pipelines Regulated by AER, and the same factors should be considered when landowners and occupants negotiate with a pipeline company. The NEB requires companies to anticipate the environmental issues and concerns that could arise from the proposed project and to discuss these with all levels of government, public interest groups, and affected landowners. In determining whether a pipeline project should proceed, the NEB reviews not only the economic, technical and financial feasibility of the project, but also the environmental and socio-economic impacts.

Unlike the AER, which may hold a hearing if landowners and a company are unable to negotiate an agreement, a hearing is part of the routine NEB process.[12] NEB hearings are dealt with briefly in National Energy Board Hearings.

Another helpful publication available from the NEB is Living and Working Near Pipelines: Landowner Guide.[13] Further information on the NEB is provided in Alberta Geological Survey.


  1. This material is from the Pembina Institute publication 'Landowners' Guide to Oil and Gas Development, 3rd edition (2016)'
  2. Alberta Environment and Parks, Environmental Protection Guidelines for Pipelines, C&R/IL/94-5. (2014). Conservation and Reclamation Information Letters are available at Alberta Environment and Parks, “Information Centre.”
    https://www.aer.ca/documents/directives/directive-056.pdf. Note the classification has been updated since publication. Relevant information can be found in Directive 056. This link has been updated since the 2016 publication; the updated link may no longer contain the original information.
  3. Type of pipelines that are regulated by the AER are listed in AER, Directive 056: Energy Development Applications and Schedules (2014), table 6. AER Directives are available at AER, “Directives.” https://www.aer.ca/regulating-development/rules-and-directives/directives.html. This link has been updated since the 2016 publication; the updated link may no longer contain the original information.
  4. Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Pipelines in Alberta: What Farmers Need to Know (2009) Agdex 878-4. http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex1125?opendocument
  5. The Gas Distribution Act applies to lines with an operating pressure of 700 kilopascals or less, but excludes rural utility lines. Alberta, Gas Distribution Act, RSA 2000, c G-3, s 1(h). Alberta government acts are available at Alberta Queen’s Printer, “Laws Online/Catalogue.”
  6. Pipelines in Alberta: What Farmers Need to Know.
  7. Pipelines in Alberta: What Farmers Need to Know.
  8. AER, Safe Excavation Near Pipelines: Requirements for Landowners and Industry, 7th Edition (2013).
  9. AER, Directive 071: Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements for the Petroleum Industry (2009).
  10. NEB, Pipeline Regulation in Canada: A Guide for Landowners and the Public (2010), 36. https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/prtcptn/lndwnrgd/lndwnrgd-eng.pdf
  11. The exception is unresolved issues concerning compensation, which are the responsibility of the Minister of Natural Resources Canada.
  12. Pipeline Regulation in Canada.
  13. NEB, "Living and Working near Pipelines." https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/sftnvrnmnt/dmgprvntn/lvngwrkngnrpplns/index-eng.html