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Oil and Natural Gas Pipelines

Pipelines are a critical part of Canada’s oil and natural gas industry. Pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to move large volumes of oil and natural gas from production areas to refineries, petrochemical plants and even to our homes and businesses for use.

There are more than 840,000 kilometres (km) of pipelines across Canada, and they are all regulated (source: Natural Resources Canada). The federal government regulates large transmission pipelines that cross provincial boundaries. The remaining pipelines are regulated provincially.

Canadian Pipeline Map

The 2020 pipeline map below shows many of the major Canadian and U.S. crude oil pipelines and refineries.

U.S. and Canadian Oil Pipelines Map. Red lines show Canadian pipelines, green lines show others.

Types of Pipelines

Canada’s pipeline system is made up of four main types of pipelines that gather, transport and deliver energy to Canadians and to export markets in the United States.

Gathering Pipelines

Gathering pipelines consist of about 250,000 km of small-diameter (4″ to 12″) pipelines that are used to move crude oil and natural gas within producing areas, from wells to oil batteries (small collection / storage facilities) or to processing facilities.

Feeder Pipelines

Feeder pipelines make up about 25,000 km of pipelines and are primarily in western Canada’s producing areas. Feeder pipelines transport crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids (NGLs) from collection points (batteries), processing facilities, and storage tanks to transmission pipelines.

Transmission Pipelines

Transmission pipelines are large-diameter pipelines that move crude oil and natural gas within provinces and across provincial or international boundaries. Canada has about 117,000 km of transmission pipelines.

Distribution Pipelines

Distribution pipelines are operated by local distribution companies to deliver natural gas to final consumers in various industries, homes and businesses. These pipelines are generally smaller in diameter. There are about 450,000 km of distribution pipelines in Canada.

Key Pipelines for Canada

Currently, two major pipeline projects are under construction in Canada. These are projects that create good jobs for Canadians and will provide access to growing international markets to ensure Canada can get full value for our oil and natural gas.

Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project

The existing Trans Mountain pipeline system originates near Edmonton, Alberta and transports refined products in addition to crude oil to destinations in British Columbia, Washington and the Westridge marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C. where crude oil can be loaded for export to California, the U.S. Gulf Coast or overseas to Asia. Crude oil is also refined in Burnaby to make gasoline and diesel, which are distributed throughout the Vancouver area and Vancouver Island.

Coastal GasLink

Approximately 670 km long, TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline will deliver about 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from producing areas in northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada facility near Kitimat, B.C. on the West Coast. LNG Canada will convert the natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export to overseas markets. (Source: Coastal GasLink)

Pipeline Regulations

Pipelines safely transport liquids including natural gas, crude oil, diluted bitumen, liquefied carbon dioxide and natural gas and liquids such as ethane, butane and propane.

Pipelines that cross provincial or international borders are regulated by the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER). Smaller pipelines within each province are under provincial regulation.

The Industry adheres to all regulations and follows best management practices to ensure safe transport of energy. Pipeline operators must design safety, emergency, security, integrity management and environmental protection programs, which are reviewed and audited by the CER to anticipate, prevent and mitigate any potentially dangerous conditions.

Canada Needs More Pipelines

In 2021, nearly all the oil and natural gas that Canada exports goes to the U.S. Canada needs more pipelines in all directions to move our growing oil and natural gas supply to more customers and meet growing demand for energy around the world.

Pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to move large volumes of natural gas, oil, and other products. Pipeline operations also have lower greenhouse gas emissions than moving energy products by rail. 

A report by IHS Markit says Canada lost more than US $14 billion due to a lack of market access — in short, not enough pipeline capacity to get our responsibly produced oil to international customers. Canada has been among the most reliable suppliers of responsibly produced crude oil in the world, but pipeline capacity has not kept pace, resulting in lost revenue and lost opportunities to access new markets.

See all Pipelines

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