Pipeline FAQs: your questions answered

Canadians want to know whether pipelines are safe, and whether we truly need new ones. Those are important questions, and we believe that a free, open exchange of information is the only way to answer Canadians’ concerns.

On the Questions Page of our website, we invite you to post your questions or concerns so that we can provide a personal answer.

This week, we’re sharing the answers to some of those questions:

#1 How many pipelines are there in the USA and Canada and how many are being built right now? Also how many pipelines are planned? – Cora-Beth

First, it’s important to know that the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies, which transport virtually all of the natural gas and crude oil produced in Canada to markets across North America. We can only provide information about Canada’s transmission pipelines. In Canada and the U.S. there are over 130,000 km of CEPA members’ transmission pipelines and there are more planned or under construction. To see existing, proposed and under construction transmission pipelines check out our interactive maps.

Interactive Pipeline Map

#2 How are you making sure that your pipelines have not been sabotaged by eco-terrorists? – George R.

Protecting pipelines from sabotage or terrorism is of critical importance. At a national level, terrorism is taken very seriously and government agencies do a lot of watching, forecasting and threat assessment. If there is a potential threat on a pipeline, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) will convey that information to pipeline operators to ensure they are prepared.

The pipeline regulator, such as the National Energy Board or provincial regulator, ensures that pipeline operators have the right safety management systems in place to mitigate and avoid eco-terrorism risks.

Pipeline operators are also focused on having a highly effective security culture, so employees and contractors know to watch for, and report, any potential threats. It’s important to note that pipelines are monitored 24/7 from control rooms, with highly sophisticated tools and software. If anything seems amiss with the pipeline, it can be shut down quickly. This enables pipeline operators to prevent threats from causing damage to the environment and protects the safety of communities and pipeline workers.

#3 How closely are pipelines monitored? Is there daily visual or aerial inspection of all pipeline routes? Are there pressure and flow meters along all lines hooked up to valves that can automatically close if there is a sudden drop in pressure or flow from the readings further up the lines? – Graham

Transmission pipelines are monitored 24/7 from control rooms using software that gathers critical information from the pipeline. Pipeline operators use a wide range of tools to monitor pipelines constantly – sensors that monitor temperature, flow rate and pressure; fiber optics; video cameras; in-line inspection tools; aerial surveillance; and even people walking the pipeline right-of-way. These tools and systems quickly alert technicians if a change is detected in the pipeline. Then, using valves located at key points in the line, pipeline operators can quickly shut off the flow of product in the pipeline at a moment’s notice. These valves are controlled remotely from the pipeline operator’s control centre.

If you’d like to see answers to more of the questions we’ve received, or ask one of your own, check out our Your Questions page.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 119,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2015, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.4 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.