01/08/2013 12:52 EST | Updated 03/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Alberta energy pipeline safety report to be released later this year

EDMONTON - Albertans will have to wait a little longer to hear about the safety of a labyrinth of oil and natural gas pipelines that criss-cross the province.

A technical review of the pipeline network was handed to Alberta Energy last month and is now being analyzed by the Energy Resources Conservation Board.

Alberta Energy spokesman Mike Deising said the board is to finish its work by March 31, and then the public will be asked to comment on the report later in the year.

"Pipelines really are a critical lifeline for the provincial economy so we need Albertans to feel confident that pipelines are the safest method to transport oil," he said Tuesday.

Deising said the government hasn't yet decided how it will consult with the public, or whether the process will include public meetings or hearings.

The government called for the review last summer following three pipeline spills, including a leak that polluted part of the pristine Red Deer River.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board then hired Group 10 Engineering Ltd. of Calgary to conduct the technical review.

Alberta has more than 400,000 kilometres of provincially regulated oil and natural gas pipelines, many of them up to 40 or 50 years old.