Methane, the main component of natural gas, can be released through the compressor stations that move the gas through the pipeline, maintenance activities, small leaks and third-party damage. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide for global warming potential, which is why CEPA members who operate natural gas pipelines are working to reduce their methane emissions.
Compressor stations are located along the pipeline route every 80 to 160 kilometers. Large compressor engines (often up to 36,000 horsepower) move natural gas through the pipeline. The engines at these compressor stations are powered by fuel, and aren’t 100 per cent efficient (just like your furnace at home). The industry is replacing old compressors with new ones that have seals installed to reduce methane leaks from around moving parts. These new compressors also use fuel more efficiently to reduce methane emissions.
For safety reasons, during pipeline maintenance, the pipeline operator may have to release natural gas into the atmosphere. To reduce the methane emitted during maintenance, operators try to eliminate the amount of natural gas within a section of pipeline before opening the valve, or divert the gas around the section of pipe being maintained.
Fugitive emissions are small, unintentional leaks that are prevented by regularly checking equipment and making repairs. Advanced leak detection devices like ultrasonic gas detectors, along with techniques like gas sniffing dogs, like Duke and Max, are used to find these tiny leaks, so they can be fixed quickly and efficiently.
One threat to a pipeline is damage caused by unauthorized digging by a third-party. This damage can release large amounts of methane to the atmosphere. To prevent these accidents from occurring, One-Call centres provide the Click/Call Before You Dig services that will identify the position of pipelines before Canadians or construction companies start a digging project. CEPA members work together with the government to make sure the public is aware of this service.