Clean energy from natural gas pipelines? It’s true.

Natural gas heats more than 50 per cent of Canadian homes, and it supplies almost half of the energy needed to run Canada’s industries.

Thanks to past innovations, our country has a technically advanced pipeline system to deliver this critical resource safely around the country. And thanks to continued innovation, natural gas pipeline operations are becoming more efficient and environmentally responsible through a process called waste heat recovery (PDF).

What is waste heat recovery? 

Large compressors stationed along transmission pipeline routes move natural gas through the line.

This process generates heat, and waste heat recovery allows pipeline companies to take the heat and turn it into clean electricity.

Creating emissions-free energy 

The electricity generated by heat-recovery systems is produced without emissions and does not require additional fuel. How is that possible? Check out this graphic to learn how the technology works:

Waste heat recovery, CEPA

A 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that 20 to 50 per cent of industrial energy input is lost as waste heat.

With heat-recovery systems, energy that would have been lost is turned into clean, emissions-free electricity.

How is the recovered energy used?

Once excess heat from compressors is turned into electricity, the electricity can be used to:

  • Power equipment at the compressor station
  • Power other industries located near the station
  • Be returned to the power grid, where – for example ­– it can be used as clean energy for homes

When pipeline companies return excess energy to the grid, it benefits all electricity consumers.

Did you know recovered energy from a single compressor could power up to 4,000 homes?

What are the environmental benefits?

By using heat-recovery technology, pipeline companies can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants because they are:

  • Reducing their own energy needs, as they use the clean energy produced through heat recovery to power their equipment
  • Reducing the need for other electricity generation by supplying emissions-free electricity to other industries and to everyday Canadians

Looking forward: How will this technology continue to help us improve?

As technology is further developed, heat-recovery units are being installed at increasingly smaller sizes for light commercial or industrial applications. By broadening the technology’s implementation, the industry can continue to improve its performance and help reduce Canada’s environmental impact.

Want to learn more?

Read CEPA’s waste heat recovery fact sheet (PDF).


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.