FAQs on Pipeline Abandonment

What is pipeline abandonment?

Pipeline abandonment is when a pipeline is permanently taken out of service and delivery of a product to an end user is discontinued. This can be done by removing the pipeline from the ground or by abandoning it in place. When a pipeline is removed or abandoned in place, the right-of-way is reclaimed and returned to a state comparable to its surroundings.

The National Energy Board reviews all proposed pipeline abandonment under its jurisdiction. Applications for pipeline abandonment must include information required by the Board’s Filing Manual. This includes an abandonment plan that has been created in consultation with landowners, aboriginal groups and other potentially affected persons and groups, so that their input is considered and they have a clear understanding of the proposed abandonment plan. The application must also include relevant engineering and environmental information, as well as information on the outcomes of consultations with landowners and other stakeholders.

An application for the abandonment of a NEB-regulated pipeline requires a written or oral public hearing and may include participant funding. If the NEB allows the abandonment, it may impose conditions that must be met before abandonment is complete.

What happens to a pipeline when it is abandoned?

A company must demonstrate to the NEB that it will abandon the pipeline in a way that protects the environment and the public from any issues that may cause inconvenience or harm, such as erosion or subsidence.

During abandonment, some or all of the pipeline may be left in the ground or removed. The choice between removing or leaving the pipeline in the ground depends on many factors, including the current and future uses of the land, and the impacts each option will have on the surrounding environment. The NEB considers all options when reviewing an application for abandonment.

For additional information on abandonment, please see Chapter 12 of Pipeline Regulation in Canada: A Guide for Landowners and the Public.

Can an abandoned pipeline be used again?

No. Once a pipeline is abandoned, it cannot be returned to service.

What happens to the pipeline’s Right-of-Way after abandonment?

If the NEB approves a pipeline abandonment, it may attach conditions to the approval that must be met by the company. This includes conditions related to safety, environmental protection and the minimization of impacts to landowners and other stakeholders.

When applying to abandon a pipeline, companies must show how the right-of-way will be reclaimed. The Board’s conditions can require that the right-of-way and other affected lands are returned to a state comparable with the surrounding environment. Companies are required to ensure the safe removal of any potential contaminants and the filing of environmental, soil monitoring and reclamation reports post-abandonment.

Does a company have to keep monitoring a pipeline after it is abandoned?

One of the NEB principles for protecting land after a pipeline is abandoned is that companies are responsible for the physical abandonment of their pipelines and for post-abandonment activities. Issues such as pipeline exposure through erosion or depressions caused by settling may require ongoing monitoring for as long as the pipeline remains in the ground.

Who is financially responsible for the pipeline abandonment?

Owners and operators are responsible for costs caused by an abandoned pipe or facility. The costs include the abandonment work itself and any unforeseen events that might occur after abandonment.

Does the NEB have jurisdiction over abandoned pipelines?

Yes, NEB jurisdiction continues even after the conditions of an abandonment order have been fully satisfied. The Board verifies that the conditions have been met through compliance verification activities, such as on-site inspections and audits.

How are issues with an abandoned pipeline resolved after the conditions of a NEB abandonment order are met?

The NEB will require companies to set aside money for abandonment work to address any unforeseen events, including those which may occur after abandonment. In addition, companies will be required to review their funding collection programs over time to confirm that the amounts set aside are appropriate. Companies must also clearly show the process for accessing the funds. The NEB will respond to complaints and conduct inspections to address issues that arise on abandoned pipelines.

How many NEB-regulated pipelines have been abandoned?

Since the NEB was established in 1959, 317.59 km of pipeline have been abandoned.

Table 1. NEB-regulated pipelines abandoned between 1959 and 2013
Regulatory Instrument Holder Pipeline Name Segment Year Abandoned Length Calculated (km)
Montreal Pipe Line Limited 12" Highwater, QC to Montreal N/A 1971 113.20
Montreal Pipe Line Limited Delivery Line - Montreal East Refinery  N/A 1972 0.18
Dome NGL Pipeline Ltd. Dome NGL Pipeline Lateral (Section)  N/A 1974 0.32
Montreal Pipe Line Limited Scraper Trap Line  N/A 1976 0.63
Montreal Pipe Line Limited Scraper Trap Line 10"  N/A 1977 4.20
Montreal Pipe Line Limited Scraper Trap Line 12"  N/A 1977 0.75
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Oakville Lateral / Halton  N/A 1989 0.15
Niagara Gas Transmission Limited Chaudiere/Hull/E.B.Eddy  N/A 1990 0.84
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Montreal feeder system / Mirabel Lateral  N/A 1990 0.07
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Montreal feeder system / Mirabel Lateral  N/A 1990 0.06
Murphy Oil Company Ltd. Wascana Red Coulee  N/A 1992 0.75
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Mainline  N/A 1992 0.02
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Section of Montreal East  N/A 1992 0.19
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Section of Montreal East  N/A 1992 0.09
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Prescott Lateral  N/A 1993 3.39
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Sun Canadian Pipeline System  N/A 1993 0.52
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Markham Lateral  N/A 1993/1994 0.30
Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. Hamilton Lateral  N/A 1996 1.95
Murphy Oil Company Ltd. on behalf of Manito Pipelines Ltd. Blackfoot-Dulwich Pipeline Blackfoot to Kerrobert 1997 12.66
Murphy Oil Company Ltd. on behalf of Manito Pipelines Ltd. Manito Condensate Line Blackfoot to Kerrobert 1997 9.21
Peace River Transmission Company Limited Rolla Lateral (North)  N/A 1997 6.12
Peace River Transmission Company Limited South Pouce Coupe  N/A 1997 1.55
Westcoast Energy Inc., carrying on business as Spectra Energy Transmission Oak Pipeline  N/A 2000 0.58
Westcoast Energy Inc., carrying on business as Spectra Energy Transmission North Rigel 0.36 to 1.24 MP 2001 1.51
Enbridge Pipelines Inc. Suncor Lateral  N/A 2003 0.12
Enbridge Pipelines Inc. 3.2km Section, NPS 20, Line 1  N/A 2004 3.20
Westcoast Energy Inc., carrying on business as Spectra Energy Transmission North Rigel 0 to 0.36 MP 2007 0.58
Yukon Pipelines Limited White Pass/Whitehorse  N/A 2009 145.6 (facilities removed)
Apache Canada Ltd. Bow Valley  N/A 2010 5.04
NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. Brazeau East Lateral  N/A 2013 3.83
Enerplus Corporation Maple Creek N/A In progress [Folder 959372] 2.53
Alta Gas Holdings Inc. Coutts N/A In progress [Folder 949305] 0.775
Forty Mile Gas Co-op Ltd. Gas Distribution System N/A Under review [Folder 938884] 0.105
Glencoe Resources Ltd. North Reagan N/A Under review [Folder 1053791] 0.215

Where can I find more information on pipeline abandonment?

See Regulating Pipeline Abandonment for additional information.

If you have questions about a specific abandonment application currently under review, contact the Process Advisor.

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