Answers to Your Natural Gas Pipeline Questions
The following are answers to questions that residents along Spectra Energy natural gas pipelines have asked in the U.S. and Canada.
- How can I learn whether your pipeline is under my property? Where is your pipeline located in my neighborhood?
In the U.S.
Spectra Energy has a tool on this Web site that you may use by providing a zip code. The "U.S. Pipeline Locator" will take you to this site. For additional questions, please contact us at 888-293-7867.
In Canada (British Columbia)
Please contact a Land Resource Agent. Click here for contact information.
Alternatively, if you want to do work on or around the pipeline, call Pipeline Crossings & Permit Information at 866-262-3654.
One Call Service in Canada
If you do not wish to speak to a Spectra Energy representative, you can easily get information through a one call centre in Canada. If you are planning to disturb the ground, you can contact the following:
- What are my rights as a landowner with respect to using the land where the pipeline crosses it? The pipeline company has thousands of easements that have been prepared over several decades so not all easements read the same. In the U.S., you can acquire a copy of your easement from your county/parish office of records to see the specific terms of your easement. In Canada, you can acquire a copy of your easement from your local land titles office or government agent.
Generally, no buildings or trees are allowed within the right-of-way but roads and sidewalks are usually allowed to cross the right-of-way. Shrubs and bushes less than 4 feet in height are allowed within the pipeline right-of-way but Spectra Energy does not normally pay for damages to such landscaping if they are damaged during maintenance or construction activities. Seasonal crops may be planted over the company's pipelines (See answer to question 3 below for more information about crops).
- How close can I plant trees to the pipelines? In the U.S., trees are not normally allowed within the pipeline right-of-way. Trees can limit the ability of the company to access the pipeline for operation and maintenance.
The pipeline company routinely mows the right-of-way for better access to the pipeline so its location is more clearly identifiable to anyone performing activities such as excavation that could damage the pipeline. Additionally, a clear right-of-way makes patrolling for encroachments and excavation activities more effective.
In Canada, trees are allowed in the right-of-way up to 1.8m tall, but not over the pipeline (must be a minimum of 1m away).
- Can crops be planted over a pipeline? If so, how do you ensure that your pipeline company does not mow down the crops? Seasonal crops may be planted over the company's pipelines. While planting and tending the crops, you should take care in tilling and plowing not to damage the pipeline. The company does not normally damage crops by mowing or cutting. However, there are infrequent occasions where timely maintenance will require the company to remove the crops, in which case the company will pay the crop owner for damages.
- When does your pipeline easement run out on our property? Generally, pipeline easements remain in effect as long as the pipeline contains natural gas for transport and/or the company maintains the right-of-way. Not all easements are the same, so you may want to acquire a copy of your easement from your county/parish office of records in the U.S., or your local land titles office or government agent in Canada to see the specific terms of your easement.
- What should I do if a neighbor burns leaves in the vicinity of the pipeline? Burning anything within the pipeline right-of-way could impact the integrity of the pipeline facilities. You should advise your neighbor that burning any material at this location is not appropriate. If they do not heed your warning, contact the pipeline company by calling one of the numbers on the marker posts at the nearest pipeline road crossing or the appropriate number in Emergency Contacts. Regardless of why there is burning occurring on the right-of-way, contact the pipeline company immediately.
- Can any ATV/four-wheeler club have a trail across the pipeline or on the pipeline? Can dirt bikes and ATVs/four-wheelers damage pipelines by driving on the right-of-way? Is this a security risk? Spectra Energy does not approve of the use of the pipeline right-of-way as a vehicular trail. Such vehicles mentioned in the question have done damage to the pipeline cover and in some instances have damaged the pipeline itself. When drivers have not advised the pipeline company of their intent to use the right-of-way, the company must assume a security threat has occurred.
If such trails are to cross the pipeline right-of-way, the trail owner should coordinate with the pipeline the installation of a crossing that will ensure there will be no impact to the earthen cover of the pipeline.
- Do your pipeline personnel notify landowners/residents when they are going to enter the property and the reason they are doing so? If the pipeline company is going to come upon property that it does not frequently enter, the pipeline personnel will normally attempt to contact the landowners/residents prior to entering the property and advise them of the nature of the company's visit.
In many instances where the pipeline personnel frequently enter the property for any of various purposes, the pipeline personnel and landowners/residents have established an agreement as to whether the pipeline personnel will notify the landowner/resident prior to entering the property each time.
Pipeline Maintenance & Operation
- How often do you check the pressure on your pipelines? Spectra Energy constantly checks the pressure at thousands of points along our pipeline system. When pressures approach maximum acceptable levels, operators in the gas control center are alerted by electronic pressure transmitters so that appropriate action may be taken. Personnel conduct maintenance on the remote transmitters of pressure information all along the pipeline system at a predetermined frequency (or sooner if there appears to be a malfunction).
- How can you pump natural gas for hundreds of miles? As with any surface, the inner walls of our pipelines are not perfectly smooth which leads to some friction when a product like natural gas flows over it. Even a small amount of friction will lead to some pressure loss after the natural gas has passed through the pipeline for many miles.
A pipeline company must install compressors along the pipeline to mechanically re-pressure the natural gas so it may continue to flow to the end user. Compressor stations are typically installed at intervals of 30 to 70 miles (approximately 48 to 112 kms) along the pipeline.
- What is the life expectancy of the pipe in the ground before it has to be replaced? With proper diligent maintenance and constantly improving operation and maintenance technology, pipelines made of steel can sustain their usefulness for an indefinite period. There are many pipelines in the U.S. and Canada that have operated safely for several decades and should be able to continue operating safely for the foreseeable future.
- The pipeline on our property goes through wetlands. Are they deep enough to prevent rusting, corrosion and other threats? How do you know for sure? The top of natural gas pipelines are at least 30 inches (76 cm) below the ground's surface when installed. The pipe has a coating which protects the steel from corrosion. In addition, a small amount of electrical current is applied to the pipeline to prevent corrosion. Spectra Energy ensures this electrical current is maintained at a very low level that will not harm people or animals in the vicinity of the pipeline.
To ensure our pipelines are not corroding, we routinely inspect them using technically advanced tools (known as smart pigs) that are able to discover any corrosion or other defects that could affect the integrity of the pipeline. When pipeline wall loss is discovered, that segment of pipe containing the wall loss is repaired or replaced.
- When does your company run "smart pigs" through the pipelines? What are the results? In the U.S., the pipeline company routinely and at a frequency in compliance with US DOT regulations passes technically advanced tools (known as "smart pigs") through the pipelines to discover any pipeline wall loss that would be the result of corrosion or other causes. When pipeline wall loss is discovered that could affect the integrity of the pipeline, that segment of pipe containing the wall loss is repaired or replaced.
Spectra Energy was involved in the development of this technology in the 1960s and was the first pipeline operator to employ it. We have tens of thousands of miles of experience in running the tool and analyzing the results.
- Does gas transported have rotten egg smell? Some natural gas pipelines have an odorant added known as mercaptan which has a smell resembling that of rotten eggs. Local distribution companies typically add this odorant so their customers can detect the presence of natural gas in the air.
Spectra Energy is an interstate natural gas transmission pipeline company in the U.S. and not a local distribution company. Thus many of our pipelines are not odorized.
If a leak were to occur in a pipeline that does not have mercaptan, a person might still detect a faint smell of hydrocarbons (propane and butane are other examples of hydrocarbons), not rotten eggs, even though natural gas is considered odorless.
- Does daily blasting within one mile of your pipeline over several years create a safety issue? Distance from a pipeline, soil type, blast intensity, and blast frequency all must be considered to determine if the blasting will create a safety concern for a pipeline. If you know of any planned blasting or any blasting has occurred in the vicinity of one our pipelines, please contact Spectra Energy toll free at 888-293-7867 so we may conduct the technical evaluation of the blasting's impact on the pipeline.
- Do you advise those who reside along the pipeline when you will take the pipeline out of service (blow gas into the air)? Spectra Energy's practice is to advise nearby residents before we conduct a scheduled activity that might result in extended noise or other type of disturbance. Regrettably, and at times unavoidably, the company is unable to notify everyone of such an event. On rare occasions, there may be unscheduled gas releases where prior notification to residents is not feasible.
- How do I report missing or destroyed pipeline marker posts? If you discover any of our pipeline markers are missing or have been destroyed, contact Spectra Energy at 888-293-7867. It is a violation of federal law subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a term of up to 1 year imprisonment for any willful destruction or removal of pipeline signs or markers (re: 49 CFR 190.229.d).
- How do I know where the pipeline is and which direction the pipeline goes when I see a pipeline marker post? In many areas it is easy to distinguish where pipelines are because a cleared corridor known as a right-of-way is where pipelines will be located. Within the right-of-way are pipeline marker posts that should be easily seen, one for each pipeline in that right-of-way. These pipelines generally lay parallel to one another but there are exceptions.
Pipeline marker posts are located as near directly over the pipelines as practical. Among the many locations these pipeline marker posts will be found is at pipeline road crossings usually on both sides of the road.
If any digging or other type earth disturbance is planned, call the company's phone number on the pipeline markers and contact your state one-call center at the number listed at www.digsafely.com. Spectra Energy will mark the location of our pipeline and we plan to be present when ever there is excavation near our pipeline.
- How do I turn off the gas outside our house if there is a leak? Report any pipeline leaks to 911. If you know the leak is on one of our pipelines, you should also report the leak to us by calling the phone number on the pipeline marker post or pipeline sign.
Spectra Energy emphasizes you should not attempt to operate any valves or other pipeline devices on our pipeline system. Only qualified company personnel should conduct these activities. Improper operation of our pipeline devices could cause the situation to become more serious.
Furthermore, the valves and/or the gate for the fences in which the valves are located are locked for the public's safety and to avoid unauthorized operation of the facilities.
- How soon does your pipeline company respond once the emergency phone number is called? How fast can your company isolate the pipeline in my neighborhood? Spectra Energy continuously monitors operating pressure at thousands of locations along the pipeline and will often be aware of a pipeline event before receiving any calls. Technical experts and control center operators are evaluating and analyzing the data they are receiving and dispatching personnel to the site of the event and other strategic locations.
The pipeline company is responding to a pipeline emergency as soon it knows the event is occurring, in many cases before receiving any calls to the emergency number. Reporting pipeline events to the emergency phone number can assist the company to know the exact location of the event to allow the company to quickly respond to an emergency.
Remote action may be possible to diffuse the event with reliable on site information from local officials and/or qualified company personnel. Qualified company personnel reporting to the site of an event live and work in the area daily and depending on traffic and weather conditions would be at the site from a matter of minutes up to an hour. Once on site, company personnel can isolate the pipeline segment in about 5 minutes.
Emergency Training & Drills
- Do you provide training to fire and EMS personnel? Does this training include emergency drills? Our pipeline company along with others meet with emergency response officials every 1 to 3 years to discuss the proper response to a natural gas pipeline emergency. Spectra Energy has extended invitations to emergency response officials to conduct emergency drills and the emergency response officials have on occasion invited our company to participate in emergency drills.
If your local emergency response officials would like to collaborate in an emergency drill or attend the emergency response meetings please contact Spectra Energy at 888-293-7867.
Identifying Company Personnel
- Are your company personnel that conduct pipeline operation and maintenance wearing ID badges or are otherwise identifiable as working for your company? Spectra Energy personnel carry company ID badges which can be provided upon request, but do not wear them. Our company personnel wear Spectra Energy hard hats with the company name and symbol.
- Are the maintenance trucks identifiable as belonging to your company? Our maintenance trucks have signs on the doors with the company name, usually the name of the parent company "Spectra Energy." Other company automobiles do not generally have signs but are painted white.
- Are there certain times that your operations and maintenance is conducted? Spectra Energy personnel generally conduct routine operations and maintenance activities during daylight hours Monday through Friday. However, there are some activities that require immediate attention which may require the company personnel to be in your neighborhood during the night, weekends and/or holidays.
- How would I recognize a patrol plane? Patrol planes are single engine airplanes that have the words "pipeline patrol" painted on the bottom of the wings. The planes are flying at about 1000 feet above the ground along the path of the pipeline right-of-way.
- What are the pipeline patrol planes looking for? The pipeline patrol pilot is looking for indications of natural gas leaks, construction near the pipeline, soil movement, and other factors that might affect public safety and pipeline operations.
- When is the pipeline right-of-way/easement mowed? Generally, the pipeline company mows the right-of-way every three years. An extended period of wet or dry weather can impact this frequency. In urban areas the right-of-way is mowed more frequently.
Local Natural Gas Delivery
- Why is gas service not always available to communities/neighborhoods your pipeline crosses? Spectra Energy does not provide local gas services, but we do deliver natural gas to local gas distribution companies that do. Local distribution companies determine whether or not local gas service will be provided in a given location.
- How deep are your pipelines buried? The top of natural gas pipelines are at least 30 inches (2 ½ feet) below the ground's surface when installed.
- What is the size of your pipelines? Most of our pipelines are 24-inches to 42-inches in diameter. Some of our other pipelines are as small as 3-inches in diameter.
- From what material is your pipeline constructed? All our pipelines are made of steel. We have no plastic or cast iron pipelines.
- What federal, state/provincial, or local agencies regulate the pipelines? The following are a few of the agencies that regulate our pipelines and processing facilities:
In the U.S.:
- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates such things as gas transportation rates, pipeline capacity, pipeline siting and natural gas quality requirements.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and their state and local agents provide regulation for the safe transportation of natural gas through pipelines.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state environmental protection agencies provide regulations for protection of the environment during the construction and operation of pipeline facilities.
- The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides regulation for the safe working place for our personnel.
- The U.S. Department of Interior Minerals Management Service (MMS) provides regulation for offshore pipeline easement leases
Pipeline and Field Services (Federally regulated operations)
- The National Energy Board (NEB) regulates such things as gas transportation rates, pipeline capacity, facility siting and natural gas quality requirements.
- The NEB and Transportation Safety Board of Canada provide regulation for the safe transportation of natural gas through pipelines.
- The NEB, federal and provincial environmental protection agencies provide regulations for protection of the environment during the construction and operation of pipeline and processing facilities.
- Human Resources Development Canada, NEB, and provincial regulators such as WorkSafe BC and Alberta Workplace Health and Safety promote and regulate workplace safety in Canada.
Midstream and NGL (Provincially regulated operations)
- Provincial energy agencies such as BC Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board regulate such things as gas transportation rates, pipeline capacity, facility siting and natural gas quality requirements.
- Provincial energy agencies and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada provide regulation for the safe transportation of natural gas through pipelines.
- Provincial energy agencies and environmental protection agencies provide regulations for protection of the environment during the construction and operation of pipeline and processing facilities.
- Provincial energy agencies and provincial regulators such as WorkSafe BC and Alberta Workplace Health and Safety promote and regulate workplace safety in Canada.
- Do you pay taxes on this property too? Spectra Energy does own property in hundreds of locations in 27 U.S. states, 7 Canadian provinces, and 2 Canadian territories and pays property taxes for those locations. The company pays substantial ad valorem taxes on the pipelines that lie within the right-of-way but not for the right-of-way property.
In the U.S., the company pays an operational fee to the U.S. DOT which comes to about $165 per mile (we operate about 12,100 miles of pipeline in the U.S.). In both the U.S. and in Canada, Spectra Energy also pays income taxes and numerous other taxes and fees.
One-Call/Call Before You Dig
- Could you provide me with the state one-call phone number for my state? If any digging or other type earth disturbance is planned, contact your state one-call center at the number listed at www.digsafely.com. If the activity is in the vicinity of our pipelines we will mark where our pipelines are and we plan to be present when you or anyone else is digging near our pipelines.