Updated August 2023
Pipelines are a safe, efficient, and reliable way of moving energy products over long distances. Alberta's total length of pipelines is 443 557 kilometres and growing, averaging about a 1% increase per year over the past five years.
As of 2022, the status of about 38% of AER-regulated pipelines was either discontinued or abandoned, an increase of about 30% over the past five years. Several factors may account for this increase:
- Companies are proactively replacing older lines with new pipelines to ensure pipeline integrity.
- Older reservoirs and oilfields are nearing the end of their lifespans.
- Pipelines are being discontinued or abandoned because of unfavourable production economics.
The AER's programs to manage pipeline liability and focus on inspections of inactive pipelines are also contributing factors.
In 2022, Alberta's pipeline inventory transported various liquids and gases:
- 56% of the pipeline inventory carried natural gas
- 16% oil-well effluent
- 6% produced water
- 5% sour natural gas (natural gas with hydrogen sulphide concentrations greater than 1%)
- 5% fuel gas
- 4% crude oil
- 8% other substances, such as fresh water and sales-grade petroleum products
Pipelines are made from a variety of materials. About 85% of Alberta's pipelines are steel. The remaining 15% of pipelines are mostly polyethylene, fibreglass, or reinforced composite materials (i.e., nonmetallic materials) that are less susceptible to corrosion compared with steel.
Figure 2 shows a breakdown of the materials used for Alberta pipelines.
Most pipelines have a diameter of 6 inches or less (classified as nominal pipe size or NPS 6). These small-diameter pipelines carry production from individual wells to nearby processing facilities. Pipelines with 12-inch diameters or larger account for only 7% of the AER-regulated pipeline inventory.
Types of Operators
Most pipelines in Alberta are operated by companies that discover and produce oil and natural gas.
In 2022, 956 companies operated pipelines regulated by the AER. Eighty-four companies operate over 80% of Alberta's pipelines. Most companies (72%) operate less than 100 kilometres of pipeline.
Figure 3 shows the pipeline by operator.