Making pipelines safer in urban areas

If a transmission pipeline is located near a densely-populated area, pipeline companies try to route the pipeline along existing roads or near other utility infrastructure to reduce the risk of incidents.

Pipelines in urban areas

The Urban Pipeline Replacement Project (UPR Project) about to take place in Calgary and Edmonton is a great example of how companies choose routes based on safety when planning their operations in urban areas. The company that proposed the project, ATCO Pipelines, plans to relocate natural gas transmission lines from urban neighbourhoods into designated transportation utility corridors along the cities’ major roads.

What is the Urban Pipeline Replacement Project?

In the 1950s and ‘60s, natural gas pipelines were built on the outskirts of Calgary and Edmonton. However, like many of Canada’s urban centers, both cities have grown. Now these pipelines run within neighbourhoods, which is why ATCO Pipelines wants to relocate and replace the old lines.

The benefits of transportation utility corridors

Transportation utility corridors, which are located beside major roads, are provincially controlled and designed to house utilities such as power lines and pipelines. Placing pipelines in designated corridors helps protect the integrity of lines from activities like third-party construction.

New pipelines = new technology = increased safety

Another benefit of the UPR Project is older pipe will be replaced with improved lines that are built with the newest technologies.

“ATCO Pipelines is committed to proactively addressing pipeline integrity and public safety by implementing modern construction practices, pipeline materials, inspection and remote monitoring technologies,” explained Brian Hahn, president of ATCO Pipelines.

The role of regulation

Like all transmission-pipeline projects, the UPR Project had to be approved by a regulator before it could move ahead. In this case, because the proposed project is within provincial borders, it was reviewed and eventually approved by a provincial regulator: the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC)*. Just like other pipeline applications, the company was required to consult with communities as part of its application.

“The input and engagement received during the comprehensive public consultation activities undertaken for the UPR Project was paramount in the approval delivered by the AUC this past January,” said Hahn.

Pipeline safety across Canada


Urban Area Pipeline Canada

The pipeline industry’s goal is zero incidents. That is why we are highlighting initiatives like the UPR Project.

From improving construction materials and techniques to safe routing, operations and retirement, pipeline companies are committed to continuously improving their collective performance. We want to earn the trust of Canadians by making pipelines even safer and by communicating transparently about how we are doing with that goal.

Regulatory Roadmap: Want to know more about what special precautions pipeline companies have to take if a pipeline route passes through a densely populated urban area? Click here for the answer.

*The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is the main regulator for energy development in Alberta. The AUC regulates the utilities sector, natural gas and electricity markets.

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.