YPAC Work From Home Roundup 3: Pipelines as an Essential Service and what that means for our global energy future

As we emerge out of week 5 of working from home, we’re taking some time to reflect on purpose.  At YPAC, our purpose is building the next generation of pipeliners.  Looking around, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the world, but we’re inspired by the fact that the work of pipeliners is recognized by Federal and Provincial governments as a critical service to society, and that our work is positively contributing to the health and safety of those around us. https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/crtcl-nfrstrctr/esf-sfe-en.aspx

“Pipeline infrastructure delivers the energy that provides heat for hospitals and health care facilities, our homes and factories. That energy also fuels the trucks that move food and other essential items to supermarkets, pharmacies, and to our front doors. And, pipelines transport materials that manufacturers need to make medical supplies, such as ventilators and safety equipment for essential services workers. Without energy, we wouldn’t be able to sustain our way of living or have many of the necessities of life. That’s why the designation of critical infrastructure is so important for pipelines.”

Chris Bloomer, President of CEPA, https://www.aboutpipelines.com/en/blog/pipelines-critical-energy-infrastructure-in-the-pandemic-crisis

Opponents of the expansion of the pipeline industry often forget that pipeliners don’t just work in traditional Oil and Gas transportation.  Consider that Pipelines are also part of our broader need to transport water reliably, and are critical components of buildings and industrial processes (think about compressed air systems, waste water, and transportation of lubricants).  In a future-looking sense, pipelines will be necessary for hydrogen, and the enablement of biogas and renewable natural gas – critical technologies for reducing the GHG impact of landfills and waste. 

As young pipeliners, the pandemic is a reminder that we are contributing a critical service to society by keeping pipeline infrastructure safe and reliable.  That means developing our skills and expertise is essential to sustaining global health.  The single use plastic components in ventilators suddenly have taken on more meaning.  N95 masks have a hydrophilic plastic coating on the outside – another reminder that as pipeliners, we have a vital role to play in delivering our products safely and reliably. 

When considering pipeline expansion projects in Canada (even without considering the requirement to supply critical health products), opponents of the industry will note that the Canadian Oil Sands should be shut in as a high emissions producer.  The majority of oil sands producers are now on par with the average North American barrel of oil. Upstream oilsands GHG emissions intensity fell by 21 percent from 2009 – 2017, and could fall by an additional 16 to 23 percent over the coming decade, IHS Markit said in their report, Greenhouse Gas Intensity of Oil Sands Production: Today and In the Future. We need to keep up these innovations, and we have an opportunity to do so now, with government stimulus underway.

As we move toward a net-zero GHG emission world, we see that natural gas has an important role to play in electricity generation. It is a reminder that energy pipeline expansions are not just for oil – they also increase our ability to reliably transport natural gas – which decreases emissions compared to coal. 

Global energy-related CO2 emissions flattened in 2019 at around 33 gigatonnes (Gt), following two years of increases. This resulted mainly from a sharp decline in COemissions from the power sector in advanced economies, thanks to the expanding role of renewable sources (mainly wind and solar PV), fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and higher nuclear power output.


The switch from coal to natural gas for power generation contributed to the single largest per-country reduction in emissions from electricity in 2019, according to the IEA. The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9% of US energy-related CO2 emissions, to 4.8 Gt. A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019.

Pipeliners connect markets and allow producers to access better prices for their commodities.  The global pandemic, and the oil price war, have really highlighted for YPAC just how important this is. 

When we think even more broadly, to the contribution that pipelines will be making to our economic recovery, it is inspiring to think that a project like Keystone XL is being built at a time like this, when we face great uncertainty. Using world leading safety measures and technologies, this project represents billions of dollars of capital investment and thousands of well-paying jobs.

At YPAC, we understand that the government now faces many choices in how to support the economic recovery of Canada’s industries.  The main concern we’re hearing right now in our world is that oil and gas companies need liquidity support from the government (primarily in the form of backstopping of credit).  We agree with the National Coalition of Chiefs, who recently sent a letter to the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mark Miller telling him this is the time to support Canada’s Oil and Gas industry: https://coalitionofchiefs.ca/2020/03/31/its-time-to-support-canadas-oil-and-gas-industry/

Export Development Canada released a liquidity support plan for exploration and production companies: https://media-exp1.licdn.com/dms/document/C561FAQGYT3YU6CB67g/feedshare-document-pdf-analyzed/0?e=1587502800&v=beta&t=zYJg4KXqMbHcQa9XbLRJdQ9wWnEKM8-QU8vW53yWRfU

In addition to the EDC’s credit support, the recent initiatives announced by the Federal government provide the industry with:

  • 1.7 B$ for the orphan wells fund (maintains 5,200 jobs in Alberta alone)
  • A $750 million emissions reduction fund, with a focus on methane, to create jobs through efforts to cut pollution.  Methane reduction is a key focus for pipelines in reducing their contribution to climate change.
  • $270 million for a program for entrepreneurial and industrial research


This is a time for the Federal government to support the oil and gas industry and future-focused pipeline technologies and projects that address climate change – like hydrogen, RNG, and biogas.  A mixed approach to enabling the energy ecosystem that includes multiple technologies – oil and gas, renewables, liquid/gaseous fuels is the best way to create a robust and reliable infrastructure and energy ecosystem in Canada.  Pipeliners need to continue to develop their skills and expertise in order to enable these technologies.  We believe that support from government to ensure the development of young pipeliners during this time is critical. 

Transporting fluids is an essential service – that’s what pipelines do in the safest, more reliable, most environmentally effective way possible.  The skills that pipeliners are developing are critical to maintaining our safety and security now, and into the future.  The things that we deliver – specifically oil and gas in Canada – have a positive environmental and sustainability record of which we are incredibly proud.  The COVID-19 crisis has given us a lot of time to reflect on what we do, and why we do it.  We’re proud to be pipeliners at a time like this! 

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