Today, Canada has limited pipeline infrastructure to move oil and natural gas across the country and into the United States.

As a result of strong growth in U.S. and Canadian oil and natural gas production, pipeline capacity is expected to become constrained in the future, requiring new pipelines and pipeline expansions to provide access to new markets.

But, pipelines are a critical part of Canada’s oil and natural gas infrastructure. Often called an energy superhighway, pipelines are a reliable and safe way to transport liquids, such as oil and water, and natural gas from areas of development all the way to refineries, petrochemical plants and even to our homes and businesses for use.

Proposed pipeline projects facing regulatory and legal scrutiny 

Source: CAPP, 2018

More than 830,000 kilometres (km) of pipelines crisscross country and they are all regulated. Of this, the federal government regulates about 10 per cent, or more than 73,000 km of the pipelines which are primarily transmission pipelines. The remaining pipelines are regulated provincially. 

Types of pipelines

Canada’s pipeline system is made up of four groups that deliver energy to Canadians and to export markets such as the United States.  
  1. Gathering Pipelines: 250,000 km of pipeline move crude oil and natural gas in producing areas from the well to oil batteries or natural gas processing facilities. 
  2. Feeder Pipelines: 25,000 km of pipeline, found primarily in producing areas in western Canada, transport crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids (NGLs) from collection points (batteries), processing facilities, and storage tanks to transmission pipelines. 
  3. Transmission Pipelines: 100,000 km of pipeline move crude oil and natural gas within provinces and across provincial or international boundaries.
  4. Distribution Pipelines: 450,000 km of pipeline are operated by local distribution companies, deliver natural gas to various industries, homes and businesses.

Source: NEB

Pipeline performance

Pipelines are a safe and environmentally responsible way to move oil and natural gas. 99.999 per cent of all oil and natural gas products transported through transmission pipelines reach their markets safely (Source: CEPA, 2017).

In Alberta, where the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) manages provincial pipelines, performance is continuously improving. AER data indicates that over the last decade, the number of pipeline incidents declined 44 per cent while the length of pipelines grew 11 per cent. 

In addition to adhering to all regulations to ensure safe transport of energy, industry also follows best management practices to help manage pipeline corrosion and operating in high impact areas.