Natural Gas Pipelines

Natural gas pipelines are used to transport natural gas from gas wells, to processing plants, to distribution systems throughout Canada. Unlike refined petroleum products, natural gas is delivered directly to homes and businesses through an extensive network of very small diameter distribution pipelines.

The Natural Gas Delivery Network

This diagram is illustrative of the Natural Gas delivery network. Actual delivery network configurations vary.

Operating gas pipelines

In natural gas producing fields, small-diameter pipes gather the raw natural gas from the producing well and transport it to a gas processing facility, where water, impurities and other gases, such as sulphur are removed. Some gas plants also extract ethane, propane, and butane, which are referred to as natural gas liquids or NGLs. NGLs are then transported via liquid pipelines to oil refineries for processing.

Once cleaned at the gas processing plants, natural gas is compressed prior to moving into large transmission pipelines consisting of steel pipe.

The natural gas flows through the transmission system from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure through the use of compressors — these are large turbines similar to jet engines, placed along the pipeline to increase the pressure of the gas, “pushing” the natural gas along the pipe to its destination. The compressors often use gas turbines supplied by fuel from the pipeline, but they can also use electricity where preferable.

Once the natural gas reaches its destination, local distribution companies (LDCs) or gas utilities reduce the pressure before the gas continues on for local delivery through smaller distribution network of pipelines.

Did you know?

Approximately 420 million cubic metres (14.8 billion cubic feet) of natural gas travel through Canada’s natural gas pipeline network every day — this is equivalent to almost 7 million 9 kilogram (20 pound) barbeque tanks.

Did you know?

Natural gas moves through a pipeline at speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour, about the speed of an Olympic sprinter.

What is natural gas?

Natural gas is gaseous hydrocarbon consisting mostly of methane with lesser amounts of natural gas liquids, as well as other gases such as such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and water. Once captured at producing wells, natural gas is transported via pipeline to gas processing facilities where the natural gas liquids, carbon dioxide and other trace compounds are removed.