Step-by-step: a look at pipeline leak prevention technology

In the second post in our ‘Step-by-step’ series, we’re taking a sneak peek at the kind of technologies pipeline companies use to prevent and detect leaks.

Join us for a look into the world of pipeline technology:

Special coatings protect pipelines from corrosion; but what if the coating gets damaged?

To prevent exposed steel from corroding, pipeline operators use a process called cathodic protection. Anodes are positioned along the pipeline and charged with a small electrical current. The current flows through natural ground moisture to the pipeline and redirects where the corrosion will occur. The anodes rust instead of the pipeline…

cathodic protection

How do pipeline companies know what is going on in their underground pipelines? 

Fiber optics and sensors positioned all along the pipeline measure acoustics, pressure, strain and temperature, and transmit a continuous stream of data to pipeline control rooms

fibre optics and pipeline sensors

Who monitors for issues? 

Technicians in control rooms analyze the data 24/7, and are alerted to potential threats such as heat damage, third-party damage, leaks or stress on the pipeline…

pipeline control rooms

What other tools inspect pipelines from inside?

In-line tools called smart pigs (pipeline inspection gauges) can identify potential problems – even leaks too small to be seen by the human eye. They use magnets, GPS tracking, soundwaves and more to identify anomalies and pinpoint them to within millimetres…

smart pigs

What do operators do when they detect  a pipeline anomaly underneath a highway? 

Horizontal directional drilling is one of the methods that could be used to install replacement pipe without disturbing the road above. The drill bits are precisely guided to a specified distance below buried cables or other services…

horizontal directional drilling

How do operators monitor for potential threats above ground? 

Aerial surveillance pilots inspect pipelines on a regular basis scouting for causes for concern…

aerial pipeline surveillance

If you’d like to know more about the pipeline technology in this post, watch this video for more detail:

To see how pipeline technology fits into the design process, check out this earlier post in the series: Step-by-step: a look at pipeline design.


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 117,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2014, 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.