Safety record

Annual Performance Report

For more information on industry safety, read the API-AOPL Annual Pipeline Safety Excellence Performance Report.

Key Performance Indicators

Pipelines are the safest way to transport liquid energy with 99.999% of barrels delivered by pipeline arriving at their destinations safely. However, no form of transportation is perfect and pipeline incidents can and do happen. 

Tracking how, where and why pipeline incidents occur helps pipeline operators and government regulators see how safely pipelines are operating and the reasons behind pipeline incidents when they occur. Pipeline operators use this data to design safety improvement programs. Particularly useful measures of pipeline safety examine incident size, location, commodity and cause. 

The liquids pipeline industry also tracks a core set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as a sign of overall pipeline safety performance. These KPIs are based primarily on incidents impacting the people or the environment (IPE). They were created through a collaborative effort between PHMSA, public safety advocates represented by the Pipeline Safety Trust and the liquids pipeline industry. They reflect the highest priority we place on protecting people and the environment.

Incidents Impacting People or the Environment

Pipeline incidents impacting people or the environment decreased 38% over the last 5 years. Total pipeline incidents were down as well, dropping 21% over 5 years with 88 fewer incidents in 2020 compared to 2016.
Graph of Total Incidents and Total IPE Incidents

Integrity Management Incidents Impacting People or the Environment

Incidents impacting people or the environment related to the integrity of the pipeline itself, such as corrosion, cracking or weld failure, were down 54% over the last 5 years. Corrosion incidents specifically dropped 52% from 2016 to 2020.
Graph of corrosion failure, material failure of pipe/weld, previous excavation damage, and previous outside force damage

Operations & Maintenance Incidents Impacting People or the Environment

Incidents related to installing and maintaining pipeline equipment and its valves or pumps were down 27% over the last 5 years in areas impacting people or the environment. In these areas, incidents caused by incorrect operation decreased by 35% while equipment failure decreased 32% from 2016 to 2020.

Incidents by Cause

Equipment failure is the most frequent cause of all liquids pipeline incidents. Over the last 5 years, equipment failure represented 48% of incidents, corrosion failure 18% and incorrect operation 16% of incidents. Material pipe/weld failures, which include cracking, a primary source of large volume releases, represented only 6% of incidents over the last 5 years.

Incidents by cause chart

Incidents by Commodity

In 2020, crude oil incidents represented 50% of total incidents, with refined products at 29% and natural gas liquids at 19% of total incidents. The number of annual crude oil incidents are down 19% from 2016.
Incidents by commodity chart

Incidents by Location

In 2020, 73% of incidents from liquids pipelines were contained within an operator’s property. Examples of pipeline operator properties include pump stations, tank farms and terminals. Incidents in public spaces outside of operator facilities decreased 34% from 2016 to 2020.
Incidents by location graph

Incidents by Size

Most pipeline incidents are small in size. In 2020, 62% of incidents were less than 5 barrels and 84% were less than 50 barrels. Large pipeline incidents are also the rarest. In 2020, only 4% of incidents were 500 barrels or larger.
Incidents by size graph