The 4 different functions of energy pipelines

Canada’s energy pipelines fuel our way of life – from the heat we rely on to keep us warm in the winter to the Zambonis that keep ice rinks clear for our hockey kids.

The two major types of energy pipelines are:


  1. Liquids pipelines that transport products such as crude oil or natural gas liquids to refineries for processing and refining. They also transport refined petroleum products like gasoline or jet fuel.
  2. Natural gas pipelines that transport gas to processing and power plants and are also used to distribute natural gas to our homes and businesses.


But, did you know there are four sub-categories of pipelines that each have different functions?

According to the University of Calgary, there are four sub-categories of pipelines that do different things.


The Four Sub-categories of Pipelines are:


  1. Gathering lines: like their name implies, these pipelines gather products from wells and move them short distances to processing plants, where impurities, water and associated gasses are removed. These pipelines are 10 to 30 centimetres in diameter.
  2. Feeder lines: these pipelines are of relatively large diameter, usually 15 to 30 cm and move crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids from storage tanks and processing facilities to larger transmission pipelines.
  3. Transmission pipelines: liquids or natural gas transmission pipelines carry natural gas, natural gas liquids, crude oil and refined products long distances across the country or to markets in the U.S. They can range from 10 centimetres in diameter to over a metre.
  4. Distribution pipelines: these are the pipelines that are generally found around your neighbourhood. They bring natural gas to homes and businesses and range in diameter from one to 15 centimetres.


How do transmission pipelines work?


Liquids transmission pipelines are very versatile and can transport a variety of grades of crude oil and crude oil products. Powerful pumps are used to push the liquid through the pipe, moving the products at around walking speed.

Natural gas transmission pipelines use compressors at intervals along the pipeline route to increase the pressure of the gas within to push it along. The diameter of the pipe and volume of gas to be moved determine the size of the compressor station and the number of compressors (pumps).

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) represents ten companies that develop and operate large energy transmission pipelines in Canada. We are committed to building knowledge and awareness of our vital pipeline infrastructure and the important role pipelines play in Canada’s economic and social health. If you have a question about energy transmission pipelines in Canada, we’d like to hear it.