Transporting Oil & Gas via Pipelines is Better for Human Safety & Emissions Abatement

Transporting Oil and Natural Gas via Pipelines Better for Human Safety cover

It's 2023, and the world continues to consume more and more oil and natural gas as the years pass by. Recently, demand for both fossil fuels hit all-time highs and are expected to continue increasing for years to come.

Growing global demand for all forms of energy – including oil and natural gas – brings us to a fundamental question: what are the best methods to transport these energy sources over long distances relative to public safety and emissions abatement?

Canada's vast pipeline network moves millions of litres of oil and natural gas underground daily. In essence, they are the lifeline of modern society, transporting these critically important fossil fuels safely and effectively. Unfortunately, pipelines are often misunderstood, and many "claims" against them just don't match up with the facts.

Here are two important studies showing why transmission pipelines, like Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain, are the better choice for transporting oil and natural gas over long distances.

Study #1 - Pipelines Abate Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

According to the International Energy Agency's latest outlook, global oil demand is expected to rise 6 per cent between 2022 and 2028 to reach 105.7 million barrels per day (mbd) – supported by robust growth in the aviation and petrochemical sectors [1].

While some believe peak oil demand is nigh (various individuals and organizations have predicted "peak" oil to occur anywhere from the 1990s through to the 2040s), it is clear that the world's use of oil is hard to replace. The technology required to supplement the use of oil in transportation, petrochemicals, agriculture, and manufacturing in commercially viable quantities simply does not yet exist. Hence, the need to transport oil and gas as safely and effectively as possible remains.

A study by researchers at the University of Alberta shows how much more environmentally friendly transporting oil via transmission pipelines is than alternative methods. They found that pipelines reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by anywhere between 61 to 77 per cent versus rail for transporting oil and gas over long distances [2].

"If you're looking at shorter transportation distances and smaller capacities, rail is probably more efficient, but most of the crude and bitumen exported from Alberta goes to U.S. refineries, which are long distances and at a large scale," said Amit Kumar, professor of mechanical engineering and lead author on the study.

"If we have to choose how we get Alberta oil to markets, pipelines are the way to go because of the lower greenhouse gas emission footprint. When you are looking at longer distances, you have to be energy-efficient, and a pipeline can transport much more oil than a railroad can."

Study #2 - Pipelines Best Choice for Human Safety

A study by the Fraser Institute shows pipelines to be much safer for the public than rail for transporting oil and natural gas. It finds a much lower incident rate per million barrels of oil and gas transported for pipelines versus rail.

For example, every year between 2003 and 2013, pipelines experienced 0.049 accidents or spills per million barrels of oil, versus 0.227 for rail. In short, this means transporting oil by pipeline is 4.5 times safer for humans.

Furthermore, the study found that most of these pipeline incidents resulted in a spill of one cubic metre or less, and that 83 per cent of these took place in a facility with secondary containment procedures and mechanisms.

The most telling statistics from the study include:

> 99 per cent of pipeline incidents that did happen did not harm the environment in any way, shape, or form.

> 99.999 per cent of crude oil and petroleum products transported by pipeline arrived at their destination

> Transporting oil and natural gas by pipeline or railway is, in general, very safe, although the first is a better option over longer distances

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1- International Energy Agency. (2023). Growth in global oil demand is set to slow significantly by 2028. Retrieved September 2023, from

2- University of Alberta - Faculty of Engineering. (2016, December). Pipelines easier on the environment than rail, study shows. Retrieved September 2023, from

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