Abandonment of a Pipeline

This page explains what the abandonment of a federally-regulated pipeline is, the CER’s role, and how you can participate in the CER’s assessment of a company’s proposed abandonment project.

Questions you may have

What is the abandonment of a pipeline?

Pipeline abandonment is when a pipeline is permanently taken out of service and the delivery of a product to an end user is discontinued. Operation ceases and the pipeline is shut down. The pipeline may then either be removed from the ground or it may be left in the ground (known as abandoned in place).The right-of-way is then reclaimed and returned to a state similar to its surroundings.

How does a company abandon a pipeline?

There are 3 stages to abandon a pipeline:

  1. Physical abandonment: This may involve activities such as clearing, grading, soil removal, remediation, and reclamation. Reclamation restores the land to a state similar to the surrounding environment. In certain circumstances aboveground facilities will be removed under the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Z662: Oil and Gas Pipeline Systems requirements and procedures.
  2. Reclamation monitoring: This type of monitoring is needed when a pipeline or segments of it are removed. Companies must safely remove any potential contaminants. The CER requires companies to monitor and report on the status of reclamation activities until we are satisfied that the area is reclaimed. 
  3. Abandoned pipeline monitoring: The CER continues to regulate pipelines abandoned in place, and we require companies to monitor and report on them. Companies are expected to respond to any concerns raised by Indigenous peoples, landowners, or the public about issues such as drainage and land subsidence.

Will you be notified about plans to abandon a pipeline?

Yes. When the company files its abandonment application with the CER, the company must serve a notice on all owners of lands through which the pipeline passes, insofar as they can be determined, and publish a notice about the abandonment application in a newspaper or publication circulated in the area where the land is located. The notice will include details about the abandonment and how you can oppose the application.

What if you oppose the abandonment project?

If you have a concern about a proposed abandonment project, you can submit a Statement of Opposition to Abandonment [WORD 658 KB] to the CER within 30 days of being notified about the abandonment application. The Commission will review the statements of opposition and may hold a public hearing.

Download the CER Statement of Opposition to Abandonment Application form from our website or call 1-800-899-1265 or email info@cer-rec.gc.ca for a copy.

What happens after you file your statement of opposition?

If you file a written statement of opposition to the abandonment with the CER, it will be considered by the Commission of the CER. Here are a few examples of what the Commission considers when reviewing a statement of opposition:

  • timing of the abandonment activities
  • method of abandonment (pipe removed or left in place)
  • reclamation of land
  • future land use

To learn more about the Commission of the CER and the commissioners who are a part of it, see our website.

What does the Commission consider when assessing an abandonment application?

While each abandonment application will be unique, the Commission typically considers:

  • Engagement with those affected: The company must demonstrate it has engaged with everyone who could be affected by the abandonment and has considered their concerns and views.
  • Protection of the environment and the public: A company must show that it will abandon a pipeline in a way that protects the environment and the public. The Commission of the CER reviews the abandonment application, identifies potential harms the project could pose, and assesses the company’s proposed mitigation measures to reduce negative impacts. If the Commission approves the abandonment application, it may impose any conditions it considers appropriate.
  • Reasons for abandonment: The Commission considers the company’s reasons for abandoning the pipeline as well as information on engineering, environmental, financial, and socio-economic factors. Detailed requirements, including adequate funding, are set out in Guide B of the CER Filing Manual.
  • Input from those who may be affected: The CER may hold a public hearing for the project where the Commission considers input from those who may be affected.
  • Abandonment in place or removal: Removing or leaving the pipe in the ground depends on many factors, including current and future uses of the land, safety, impacts to potentially affected peoples and communities, property, environment, and economics.
  • Reclamation: The company must show how the right-of-way would be reclaimed after the pipeline is abandoned. The company is expected to anticipate, prevent, manage, and mitigate any conditions that could adversely affect safety or the environment.

How does the CER oversee protection of the environment?

If the Commission approves the abandonment application, it will issue an order that will include any conditions it considers appropriate. Conditions are placed on a project for safety and to protect the environment. Once the company begins the abandonment work, the CER verifies that all conditions and other requirements are being met. This may be done through inspections and audits.

For a pipeline that is abandoned in place, the company maintains responsibility for keeping it safe. The CER continues to regulate the abandoned pipeline and the company that owns it.

Are there any costs to the public to abandon a pipeline?

No, the public is not liable for costs to abandon a pipeline. The company must pay all costs related to abandonment. This includes cleaning up the surrounding area until it is reclaimed to meet the conditions of the abandonment approval.

The CER requires companies to set aside money to pay for future abandonment work. Companies review their estimates for the abandonment of their facilities at least every 5 years to confirm that the amount being set aside is appropriate.

What if there are issues with a pipeline after abandonment?

If you have concerns or questions about a federally-regulated pipeline that has been abandoned, contact the CER. CER staff may contact the company and look into the issues you have raised.

Parties may also use the CER’s Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services. For more information on ADR, see our website or call 1-800-899-1265 (toll free). ADR is available at any time, including during a hearing.

What if you need to work on or near an abandoned pipeline?

A person must not make contact with, alter, or remove an abandoned pipeline or facility unless they are authorized to do so by the CER. For more information, see the damage prevention section of the CER website.

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