Getting answers to your questions about pipelines

Canadians regularly reach out to CEPA with questions about pipelines, particularly around safety. We appreciate the opportunity to answer these questions – here’s our response to a few recent ones we’ve received in the ‘Your Questions’ section of our website.

Why do pipelines burst? – Jacke, Kitchener, ON

Pipeline incidents, while rare, can occur when there are series of failures in a system – whether it’s on the pipeline itself or the systems used to monitor and protect the pipeline. The most common causes of incidents on transmission pipelines are metal loss, materials, external interference, manufacturing or construction defects, and cracking.

pipeline questions

CEPA members prevent incidents by continuously improving the technologies that inspect and monitor pipelines, using safety management systems to identify, prevent and manage gaps in their operations that can impact safety, and by having a strong safety culture.

How often are oil pipelines replaced? – Zimbozan, Montreal, QC

Pipeline operators focus on regular inspection and maintenance and prevention and monitoring activities to ensure their pipelines are operating safely for a long time. Transmission pipelines don’t have limit on their life span, and they can easily operate for many years with appropriate maintenance.

Pipelines are monitored 24/7 from control rooms to ensure that they are operating safety and securely, and anything out of the ordinary gets investigated quickly.  Pipeline operators consider the product the pipeline is carrying, the age of the pipeline, geohazards and other critical elements to determine how frequently pipelines should be inspected.

To give you an idea of the commitment of transmission pipeline operators‘ to inspections and maintenance, in 2016, CEPA members conducted almost 3,000 integrity digs to examine pipelines for potential defects and make repairs. There were almost 40,000 km of pipelines inspected by in-line inspection tools and over $1.2 billion was spent on maintaining and monitoring Canadian transmission pipeline systems.


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