Agriculture and pipelines: How companies protect land

Field of yellow flowers - Pembina

In order to deliver the energy Canadians use every day, pipelines often have to cross agricultural land. After all, there are over 160 million acres of farmland in this country, according to Statistics Canada.

“Agricultural land is a valuable resource for all Canadians,” said Bernard Perron, vice president of project development with Inter Pipeline Ltd. “The land, crops and livestock are the farmer’s livelihood, and the welfare of many Canadian rural communities is dependent upon agricultural lands.”

Protecting the integrity and productivity of this land is important to pipeline companies. That is why CEPA decided to develop a two part blog series on agriculture and pipelines. This first post in the series is an overview of the ways companies protect farmland and ranchland when planning, constructing and operating pipelines.

Selecting a pipeline route to minimize impact

Perron, who has been involved in many pipeline projects over his 23-year career, explained that route selection is the primary way companies can mitigate impacts to agricultural land.

“A route will be selected to minimize pipeline length and to parallel existing disturbances (such as other utilities) as much as possible,” he explained.

Companies also use environmental studies and existing land information, Perron said, to identify landscapes such as native prairie, sensitive soils and areas of high biodiversity (like wetlands). Routes are designed to avoid these sensitive areas where possible.

Protecting agricultural lands during construction

When a pipeline company is planning a project, it must produce an environmental protection plan. These plans outline the mitigations efforts needed for a particular piece of land.

Perron provided the following examples of the ways companies mitigate impact:

  • Ensuring equipment arrives in a clean condition prior to entering cropland (so weeds are not introduced or spread)
  • Salvaging and storing topsoil from the work area so that topsoils and subsoils can be replaced separately after the pipeline is installed (check the blog next week for more info on this process)
  • Leaving gaps in soil piles and strung pipe to ensure farm machinery and livestock can cross

Pipeline maintenance: Working around growing seasons

In order to keep pipelines operating safely, companies perform regular maintenance. This maintenance is often scheduled around the growing season to avoid damage to fields.

“Pipeline companies take care to time their work, as much as possible, so as not to impair agricultural operations,” said Perron. 

Stakeholder engagement: Working with farmers and ranchers

Listening to landowners and working to address their concerns is a key way companies learn how to best protect a farmer or rancher’s land.

In fact, CEPA recently introduced training guidelines and a code of conduct for land representatives, who work with landowners, to ensure companies are building respectful, long-term relationships with these very important stakeholders.

Want to learn more? Read about pipeline regulations and agricultural land.

Check our blog next week for part two of the “Agriculture and Pipelines” series. Next week’s post is all about soil conservation. 


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 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.