Get in the know with these pipeline damage prevention basics

Excavation and construction is a leading cause of damage to buried transmission pipelines.

Any damage can have repercussions, which could extend beyond the pipe to people and the environment.

But pipeline damage is preventable and your actions can make a difference. Last week we outlined the steps you should take to make sure your activities don’t damage a pipeline.

We believe that knowledge is power, so this week here’s a look at some basic pipeline terminology that will aid you in knowing where pipelines are located so that your project doesn’t cause any damage.

Pipeline right-of-way

A pipeline right-of-way is the strip of land above a buried pipeline.

Pipeline companies acquire the right to use the land for construction, operation, inspection and maintenance of their pipelines, but do not usually own the land.

Right-of-ways identify an area where certain activities are prohibited to protect the public and the integrity of the pipeline. They are typically cleared of trees and most vegetation, as well as building and other structures, and are always clearly marked with warning signs.

Warning signs/markers

Federal and various provincial regulations require pipeline companies to place warning signs along their pipeline route.

The most visible locations are chosen for warning signs – along highways, at road, railway and water crossing and other prominent locations. Warning signs clearly and continuously mark the pipeline’s location along pipeline right-of-ways.

It’s important to remember that these markers only show an approximate location of a pipeline, and the location and depth of pipelines vary. Always call before you dig to get the exact location of a pipeline.

Image courtesy National Energy Board

The NEB safety zone

The National Energy Board (NEB) has established a 30-metre safety zone on either side of a pipeline right-of-way to protect the public, the environment and the pipeline.

The NEB Pipeline Crossing Regulations govern activities on or within the safety zone. This includes the requirement of pipeline company approval for any excavation using power operated equipment or explosives within the 30-metre safety zone.

Depth of cover

Depth of cover refers to how far a pipeline is buried underground. Typically pipelines are buried between one and three metres below the surface. The depth of cover over a pipeline can vary for many reasons.

Bottom line: always call before you dig

Pipelines operate 24/7 underneath our feet and we’re generally unaware of them. Warren Loper, Supervisor, Damage Prevention at Enbridge, says this fact makes damage prevention knowledge even more important.

“Pipelines are out of sight but they should never be out of mind. Always call before you dig. There’s more than a pipeline at risk.”

For even more pipeline damage prevention information:


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 110,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2011, 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.