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Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta., on June 18, 2019.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Canada’s largest pipeline industry association will cease operations by the end of the year, driven in part by the departure of three major energy companies from its membership.

The end of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) underscores the seismic shift under way in the energy sector. Fossil-fuel companies are pivoting to renewables or incorporating other green technologies into their operations as investors increasingly focus on environmental, social and governance issues. The CEPA board made the decision to wind down the association this week, with operations to shutter by Dec. 31.

The demise of CEPA after three decades is a bitter pill to swallow for its president and chief executive, Chris Bloomer.

He said it has become increasingly difficult to lobby for changes to government policy over the past five to 10 years. Put simply, CEPA “couldn’t do the things that we were doing in the past,” he said.

The association represents major pipeline companies that transport the majority of the natural gas and crude oil produced in Canada to markets across North America. Its members delivered more than 4.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.3 billion barrels of crude oil in 2020, according to CEPA’s most recent industry report.

In 2016, it had a dozen members. But around two years ago, energy giant Enbridge Inc. left. This year, Pembina Pipeline Corp. and TC Energy Corp. followed suit.

“The big guys represented a critical mass,” Mr. Bloomer said. “When you have that, you’re speaking for the whole industry, and that really means something. When you lose that constituency, it’s tough.”

He put their departures down to downsizing, alongside a shift in the sector that has companies grappling with how they exist in a world pushing toward a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Traditionally a fossil-fuel-centred organization, CEPA members have diversified, and in recent years have ramped up transportation of hydrogen, renewable natural gas and biofuels. Mr. Bloomer said those fuels – along with carbon-capture utilization and storage – will continue to drive momentum in the energy sector.

The decision to dissolve CEPA follows celebrations by the Alberta energy sector and the province’s government about the completion of the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline. The project doubled the line’s export capacity to 760,000 barrels per day, starting Oct. 1.

No companies are looking to build any other major new pipeline transmission systems in Canada. But Mr. Bloomer said pipelines remain relevant, with many smaller projects still being built in Alberta to help unclog transportation bottlenecks around natural gas.

The end of CEPA “doesn’t mean that this industry is throwing in the towel by any means,” he said.

Rather, he thinks more companies want to tell their own stories when it comes to lowering emissions or incorporating more renewables into their energy mix.

“Companies are taking the advocacy part, taking the safety and integrity part, and they’re moving it to be more internal,” he said.

The CEPA members who provided comment to The Globe and Mail said that while the decision to shutter CEPA was tough, they were grateful for the association’s efforts.

Jason Sharpe, president of ATCO Gas and Pipelines and a member of the CEPA board, said sharing best practices and information between members was for years at the forefront of the association’s mandate, and was a success.

“Through the work and collaboration of industry, CEPA ensured that the energy delivery systems they represented are among the safest in the world,” he said.

Jeff Marchant, with Inter Pipeline, said the energy industry will continue to benefit from CEPA’s work on safety and collaboration. “The industry really matured during CEPA’s time, and this opportunity to reset and refocus will benefit from the foundation the association laid to date,” he said.

Over the years, the association was vocal in its opposition to Bill C-69 – or the Impact Assessment Act – which allows the federal government to consider the impacts of new resource projects on issues such as climate change. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney labelled it the “no-more-pipelines bill.”

Ultimately, the campaign to spike the bill failed, but Mr. Bloomer said the energy-sector collaboration and public awareness of the bill driven by CEPA was something of a success.

Mr. Bloomer said the goal right now for CEPA is to finish its work, and make sure its assets are protected.

“If somebody wants to come and take it off the shelf and use that to do something new, it will be there,” he said.

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