20 Facts You Didn't Know About Canadian Pipelines

Canadian pipeline facts you didn't know

Oil and gas pipelines in Canada have been a frequent topic of discussion in the public domain for a decade or more. While most of us have a good idea of their purpose and the energy abundance they afford us, not everyone is on the same page about the necessity of Canada’s huge network of transmission pipelines.

So, here are more than 20 fun and interesting facts on Canadian pipelines that you may or may not know; either way, some of these pipeline facts are jaw-dropping and make for a good read! Also see:

#1 – They could circle the Earth many times over

Canada’s network of underground liquid and natural gas pipelines could extend around the world’s equator nearly 21 times! Earth’s equatorial circumference is approximately 40,075 kilometres in length, equating to roughly 840,000 kilometres of pipelines!

#2 – Gathering pipelines move crude oil and natural gas from wellheads to oil batteries & facilities

Canada’s largest oil and natural gas producing provinces are home to more than 250,000 kilometres of gathering pipelines, which collect crude oil and natural gas from producing wells to pump and production facilities.

#3 – Feeder pipelines move crude oil and other products like natural gas liquids to transmission pipelines

Canada’s petroleum-producing provinces are home to more than 25,000 kilometres of feeder pipelines. These pipelines move oil and natural gas liquids to larger transmission pipelines such as Trans Mountain or Line 3.

#4 – There is way more pipeline in the ground than highway

Canada’s national highway system isn’t nearly as large as its transmission pipeline network. There is about three times the number of these pipelines than there is highway, equating to 115,000 kilometres of total transmission pipelines!

#5 – There are even more distribution pipelines than gathering, feeder and transmission pipelines combined

Distribution pipelines are owned and operated by local companies and provincial cooperatives. These pipelines deliver natural gas to buildings of all types. In total, there are about 450,000 kilometres of distribution pipelines across Canada.

#6 – 117,000 kilometres of pipelines provide domestic and U.S. markets with oil, natural gas

Canada’s closest ally and trading partner is responsible for buying more than 96% of Canada’s oil and natural gas exports. Canada has 117,000 kilometres of pipelines transporting crude oil and natural gas to buyers at home and across the southern border, showing how closely tied the U.S.’s energy security is to Canada and Canada’s economy is to the U.S.


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#7 – Natural gas moves at 40 kilometres per hour

Natural gas can move through transmission pipelines at a speedy rate of up to 40 kilometres per hour, about the same as an elephant moving at top speed.

#8 – Crude oil moves at 5 kilometres per hour

On the other hand, crude oil moves much slower – at about 5 kilometres per hour – the same speed you would be going while casually walking down the street.

#9 – Enough oil to fill many, many swimming pools

Canada’s pipeline network moves enough crude oil to fill 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools daily. An Olympic-sized swimming pool is 50 metres long, 25 metres wide, and a minimum of 2 metres deep, holding a volume of water equal to 660,430 gallons, or just over 3 million litres. In total, that’s more than 600 million litres of crude oil a day, almost all of which goes to buyers in Canada and the United States.

#10 – Enough natural gas to fill many, many more

The Canada-US pipeline network transports roughly 10.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day. Such a vast amount of natural gas is hard to fathom or put into perspective.

#11 – A majority of Canada’s energy demand is met by petroleum

Over two-thirds of the energy demand in Canada is currently met by products made from crude oil or natural gas. A majority of that supply is transported via its extensive pipeline network.

#12 – Practice runs = world-class safety regulations

In 2014 alone, members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) held 335 emergency response exercises.


Canadian pipelines under construction versus globally


#13 – Pipeline partners across the country

With over 2,500 local supply partners across Canada, the Canadian pipeline industry is a key part of the economy and supports many businesses in many small towns and cities. Over 900 communities are reliant or heavily reliant on the natural resource sectors in Canada, including pipelines.

#14 – Extensive rules and regulations

Canada’s pipeline industry operates at the highest regulatory standards globally. For example, the Canadian pipeline standards document is more than 500 pages and describes in detail the technical and operational requirements by law.

#15 – Canada’s first pipeline was built in the 19th century

Canada’s very first natural gas pipeline was built in 1853. It was a cast-iron pipe which spanned 25 kilometres and moved natural gas to Trois Rivieres in Quebec.

#16 – Canada’s first oil pipeline was also built in the 19th century

Not many years later, Canada’s first oil pipeline – and one of the first to be built in the world – was constructed to transport oil from the Petrolia oilfield in Petrolia, Ontario, to Sarnia, Ontario.

#17 – Western Canada’s first major pipeline began with natural gas

In 1912, the 275-kilometre long Canadian Western Natural Gas pipeline was built from Bow Island to Calgary, Alberta. Drilling soon began focussing also on oil, as the “black gold” was discovered in Turner Valley a few years later in 1914.


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#18 – Canadian pipelines benefit Canadian families

The Canada-US pipeline transportation network creates substantial benefits for families on both sides of the border. In Canada, the network:

> Created $9.2 billion in economic activity (GDP) in 2019

> Employed 13,434 people across Canada in 2019

> Provided an average annual salary of $80,155 in 2019, much higher than the average for other occupations across the board

#19 – Canadian pipelines are a boon to Canada’s pocketbook

Canada’s pipeline network is responsible for transporting hundreds of billions of dollars worth of crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas liquids and natural gas to Canadians and export customers each year.

In 2014, for example, federally regulated pipelines shipped about $159 billion worth of oil and gas to domestic and international buyers.

#20 – Canadian pipelines benefit the world

Canadian oil and gas producers operate under one of the most stringent regulatory regimes globally. Furthermore, of the world’s top 10 oil and gas producers and exporters, Canada ranks high – if not THE highest – on several Environmental, Social and Governance indices.

Given global energy demand for oil and gas is projected to grow for many years yet, If you care about the advancement of global democracy, human rights and environmental protection, you support Canadian pipelines.

Sources: Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), Canadian Energy Regulator (CER), Natural Resources Canada (NRC), Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC)

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