Canadian Pipeline Regulations & Standards: The Basics You Need to Know

Canada is a top producer of crude oil. The networks of pipelines are an efficient way to transport these products. Read about the basic types of pipelines and the standards for installation and maintenance.


Canada produces millions of barrels of crude oil daily. Canada’s network of pipelines is an efficient and safe way to transport these extremely large quantities of oil and gas.
In fact, it would take 15,000 tanker trucks to carry the amount of crude oil that runs through these pipes each day, which is why they need to be inspected and maintained to the proper regulations and standards. Let’s take a look at the basic types of pipelines and all the standards you need to know before you install them.

Four Different Types of Pipelines for Oil and Gas

There are four main types of pipelines that take careful planning to construct, implement and maintain. If you were to place all the pipeline underground end to end, you would have enough to wrap around the earth 20 times!
It takes teams of people to meticulously execute proper implementation and regular maintenance. Doing so ensures the safety of those who work with them and live around them. Pipelines operate like roads and highways, except instead of cars, they move oil and gas. Here is how they work:
Gathering Lines: These pipelines help to distribute natural gas, crude oil, ethane, butane, and propane. The contents travel short distances through these lines before arriving at facilities for processing. Think of these like small surface streets in your neighbourhood.
Feeder Lines: These pipes also transport crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids, connecting the gathering lines to the transmission lines. After going through oil batteries, processing facilities, and storage tanks, the oil is ready to move full speed ahead onto the pipeline superhighway. Think of these like main thoroughfares.
Transmission Pipelines: After being fed into these pipelines from the feeder lines, the oil is able to travel long distances across provinces, sometimes going beyond international boundaries, much like a highway does.
Although what various transmission lines do is the same, what they contain varies. Natural gas transmission pipes usually carry only natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs). Crude oil transmission pipelines can carry crude oil, refined petroleum and different types of liquids.
Distribution Pipelines: LCDs or Local Distribution Companies run these lines to distribute natural gas to homes and businesses. These pipelines are different from the rest—running straight from where it’s processed to where it is used. There are about 200,000 more of these underground lines than any of the rest—making up most of the underground pipeline skeleton by far.

Two Basic Standards for Pipelines

The basic standards that companies need to meet are twofold. There are standards to ensure the safety of the community and the environment, and there are transportation regulations. Committees of scientists and engineers check the pipelines from concept to completion in order to verify that they are meeting acceptable standards of operation. To pass inspection they need to meet these two standards:

Safety Standards

Companies must pass inspections and audits and perform necessary incident investigations to comply with government safety standards. The National Energy Board (NEB) regulates about 71,000 kilometres of inter-provincial pipelines. Pipelines must be engineered and improved through the use of ultrasonic tools and magnetic flux, which improve pipeline walls and provide leak protection.
There are regulations to manage corrosion and cracking, limit material defects and prevent environmental interferences like extreme weather or human error (such as damage from heavy construction machinery). Other safety standards include monitoring the flow of oil or natural gas that passes through the pipelines.
Finally, the NEB considers safety and regulations regarding socio-economic matters, land matters, and public interest matters of those who live near pipelines. Companies must negotiate easements or land agreements with landowners before being granted permission to proceed with pipeline implementations. These negotiations include the terms of compensation, activities that are allowed and right-of-way, and defining exact locations where the pipelines will run.

Technical Standards

During the 90s, the Canadian Standards Association rolled four standards for oil and gas pipelines into one. This one system now covers the transportation systems, offshore aluminum pipelines, and distribution systems. CSA Standard Z662 streamlined efficiency, helping to clear up confusion and better regulate the oil and gas industry. It is the only standard in the world that deals with both oil and gas transportation together.
To simplify the process even more, there is a separate branch of standards (CSA Standard Z663) addressing land planning for oil and gas pipelines. In order to completely understand and fully comply with regulations, companies need to become familiar with these documents before beginning operation.

Need for Underground Pipelines

Pipelines are the safest way of distributing oil and gas. Recent statistics show that 99% of all oil was safely transported through federally-regulated pipelines.
Crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products are essential for heating our homes, running our cars, and transporting goods for profit. Pipelines help to keep people employed and foster the growth of businesses in our country—truly serving as a backbone to our economy.

To maintain the integrity of your pipelines, be sure to call us at 20/20 NDT to detect potential weak spots before any fractures happen.

We provide service for clients in Grande Prairie, Fort St. John, Peace River, Dawson Creek, and surrounding areas in British Columbia and Alberta.