6 pipeline technologies you’ll want to know about

This is the final post in CEPA’s “pipeline innovations” blog series.

How long has pipeline technology been evolving? Well, the first recorded use of pipelines to transport hydrocarbons was in China around 500 BC. Those pipelines were made of bamboo.

Fast forward 2,515 years to modern day Canada. Pipelines are now made from high-quality steel protected by sophisticated coatings and are monitored 24-7 from control rooms. And pipeline technology continues to improve.

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been sharing some of those exciting advancements in our pipeline innovations blog series. Here’s a look at how the technologies we highlighted are helping to improve the way pipelines are planned, constructed and operated.

1. GIS and planning pipeline routes

Analysis of a pipeline route using a GIS technology.

Analysis of a pipeline route using a GIS (click image to enlarge). Image courtesy of ILF Consultants.

GIS technology (GIS stands for geographic information system) is helping companies determine the best route for pipelines by allowing them to evaluate many variables, including social and environmental impact and geological risks, in one computer program that links data to real-world locations on a map.

Read more about GIS and pipelines here.

2. Sophisticated coatings that protect pipelines

Anti-corrosion coating and an abrasion-resistant overcoat on a pipeline. Image courtesy of Bredero Shaw. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Anti-corrosion coating and an abrasion-resistant overcoat on a pipeline. Image courtesy of Bredero Shaw. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Special coatings are applied to the outside of pipelines to help protect them from corrosion and from abrasion, caused by materials in the soil (such as rocks). The science behind these coatings is always evolving, and in this post we explain how these sophisticated coatings work.

Learn more about pipeline coatings.

3. Load moment indicators used to keep pipeline workers safe

Pipelayers installing a pipeline. Photo courtesy of Cranesmart Systems.

Pipelayers installing a pipeline. Photo courtesy of Cranesmart Systems.

Preventing leaks is important, but protecting the workers who build pipelines is just as important. In this post, we explore how load moment indicators installed on pipelayers warn operators if the machine is overloaded and at risk of tipping.

Learn more about load moment indicators on pipelayers.

4. Making Mother Nature predictable

A geohazard identified and mapped on a pipeline route. Photo courtesy of BGC Engineering.

A geohazard identified and mapped on a pipeline route (click image to enlarge). Photo courtesy of BGC Engineering.

Natural forces, such as landslides, earthquakes or river erosion, can be a threat to underground pipelines. A new geohazard management program is helping companies anticipate if there’s a risk to their pipeline, allowing them to take action before an incident occurs.

Learn how a geohazard management program works.

5. Detecting tiny leaks

An example of a hyperspectal imaging. (Image courtesy of Rebellion Photonics)

A specialized camera detects evaporated hydrocarbons. Image courtesy of Rebellion Photonics.

Canadians often express concern about the industry’s ability to detect small pipeline leaks. In this post, we explain what causes pinhole-sized leaks and discuss how technologies, such as specialized cameras that detect evaporated hydrocarbons, can help alert companies to tiny leaks.

Read about detecting pinhole-sized leaks.

6. SCADA systems that are the Big Brother of pipelines

A pipeline control room

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems gather critical information from pipelines and alert technicians in control rooms if there’s a problem. In this post, we show you some sophisticated technologies, such as fiber optics cables, that work with these systems and explore where new innovations might be heading. Here’s a hint: It includes drones!

Learn about how SCADA systems help pipeline companies see underground.

Many technologies, one goal

A company’s integrity management system includes many policies, practices and technologies that work together to ensure their pipelines operate safely. When new technologies are developed, they strengthen this system and help operators drive towards one important goal: zero incidents on Canada’s pipelines.

Read all the posts in the pipeline innovations series:


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2013, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.