What types of liquids do pipelines transport?

Pipelines safely transport liquids including crude oil, diluted bitumen, liquified carbon dioxide and natural gas liquids such as ethane, butane and propane.

Crude oil

Canada is the fourth largest producer and third largest exporter of oil in the world. Alberta’s oil sands have the largest reserves of crude oil in Canada, and there are large deposits off the coast of Atlantic Canada.

Crude oil, also know as petroleum, is a naturally occurring mixture of hydrocarbons that comes out of the ground in liquid form. It is often found along with natural gas, carbon dioxide, saltwater, sulphur compounds and sand.

Crude oil is refined into products we rely on every day, including gasoline, diesel, asphalt, motor oil, ship fuel, home heating fuel and aviation fuel, along with other forms of petrochemicals.

Diluted bitumen

Diluted bitumen, or dilbit, is a thick, molasses-type product that is found in the oil sands regions of Alberta. Sometimes, it’s found near the surface mixed with sand and other debris, while in other instances, it can be found deep in the ground under several layers of rock.

Dilbit is too thick to flow in a pipeline at ground temperature, so it needs to be thinned with a light petroleum product, called diluent. Diluent is typically either light crude or condensate, which is extracted from the ground along with natural gas. Once the diluent is added, dilbit is the same consistency as conventional oil.

Bitumen is refined into various products we rely on every day, including gasoline, diesel, asphalt, motor oil, ship fuel, home heating fuel and aviation fuel, along with hundreds of other items.

Natural gas liquids (NGLs)

Natural gas liquids (NGLs) are components of natural gas that are separated from the gas state in the form of liquids. Examples of NGLs include propane, butane and ethane.

NGLs have a wide variety of industrial and commercial uses, including in the creation of petrochemicals, heating, cooking and the production of fertilizers.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a natural substance in the air that is essential to life. It is also the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. The largest source of CO2 from human activities is from burning oil, coal and gas for electricity, heat and transportation.

Canada is finding new ways to capture, compress, store and repurpose that CO2 to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. The oil and gas industry is leading the way in developing new technologies that extract CO2 during industrial processes and repurpose it for enhanced oil recovery or store it deep underground. This is called carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCS).

Once the CO2 has been captured, it is liquified and transported via pipeline. Alberta is home to the world’s largest CO2 pipeline which transports CO2 from industrial sites in Alberta to oil wells and underground storage sites. This system is capable of transporting 14.6 million tonnes of CO2 every year, which is equal to the impact of taking all of the vehicles in Alberta off the road.

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