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Updated June 2022


AER Inventory

Pipelines are recognized as one of the safest and most efficient and reliable ways to move energy-related products over long distances. Alberta's total length of pipelines is 441 361 kilometres and continues to grow, averaging about one per cent increase per year over the last five years.


Pipeline distance

As of 2021, about 37 per cent of AER-regulated pipelines had a status of either discontinued or abandoned, an increase of about 30 per cent over the last five years. Factors that may account for this increase are companies

  • proactively replacing older lines with new pipelines to ensure pipeline integrity,
  • discontinuing and abandoning pipelines due to unfavourable economics, and
  • placing increased emphasis on meeting end-of-life obligations.

The AER's programs to manage pipeline liability and its focus on inspections of inactive pipelines are other potential contributing factors.

Types of Pipelines

Pipelines transport various liquids and gases. In 2021,

  • 57 per cent of Alberta's total pipeline inventory carried natural gas,
  • 16 per cent carried oil-well effluent,
  • 5 per cent carried sour natural gas (natural gas with hydrogen sulphide concentrations greater than 1 per cent),
  • 5 per cent carried fuel gas,
  • 5 per cent carried produced water,
  • 5 per cent carried crude oil, and
  • 7 per cent carried other substances, such as fresh water and sales-grade petroleum products.

Pipelines are made from a variety of materials. About 85 per cent of Alberta's pipelines are made of steel. The remainder is mostly nonmetallic pipelines made of polyethylene, fibreglass, and reinforced composite materials, which are less susceptible to corrosion.

Figure 2 shows a breakdown of the materials used for Alberta pipelines.

Most pipelines are small in diameter, with 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 diameters of 12 inches or larger make up just 7 per cent of all AER-regulated inventory.

Pipeline Sizes

Types of Operators

Most pipelines in Alberta are operated by companies that discover and produce oil and natural gas.

In 2021, 950 companies operated pipelines regulated by the AER. Eighty-seven companies operate over 80 per cent of Alberta's pipelines, with most companies (72 per cent) operating pipelines less than 100 kilometres long.

Figure 3 shows the pipeline by operator.