Oil and Natural Gas: Midstream

Midstream – Connecting Phase

Simply put – the midstream oil and natural gas industry links upstream activities with downstream activities.

The midstream industry gathers, processes, stores, markets and transports oil and by-products, natural gas and natural gas liquids. It also includes sales and marketing to downstream wholesalers, and industrial and commercial companies. It’s an exciting and important part of the industry – and one you could be a part of.

Midstream at a Glance

Oil and natural gas need to be transported from point A to point B. It’s at the midstream phase that oil and natural gas are moved from upgraders and processing plants near the well site to downstream wholesalers, industrial and commercial companies, refineries and petrochemical plants for further processing and distribution to consumers. Several methods of transportation are used to move products to markets all across Canada, including a complex system of pipelines, ships, railways and trucks.

Did you know

97% of Canada’s oil and natural gas products are transported using pipelines, which vary from the size of a dime (12.7 mmm) to the size of a large bale of hay (1.2 m.)

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA). 2019 Transmission Pipeline Industry Performance Report.

Pipelines

Canada has more than 800,000 kilometres of pipeline, all part of a transportation system that includes pumping stations and secondary storage facilities. Getting oil and natural gas to the next destination takes innovation, skills and bright minds.

Here’s a look at four types of pipelines that make the system work.

  • Gathering pipelines move oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids short distances, from the field to oil batteries or natural gas processing plants.
  • Feeder pipelines transport products from storage tanks and processing facilities to the long-distance haulers – large transmission pipelines.
  • Transmission pipelines carry natural gas, natural gas liquids, oil and refined products long distances – including across borders.
  • Distribution pipelines are the smallest and they’re used to get natural gas to homes and businesses.
Types of Pipelines

Work in the pipeline industry is exciting and diverse. You could work in the field laying pipe, inspecting pipeline seals or talking to community members about a proposed pipeline route. Office and tech opportunities are also part of this area of midstream.

Pipeline opportunities include:

Upgraders and Processing Plants

Upgraders

An upgrader is a facility that upgrades bitumen into synthetic crude oil so it is easier to transport to an oil refinery. Upgraders are typically located close to oil sands mines or well sites. 

Processing Plants

The natural gas that comes out of the ground is typically a mixture of natural gas liquids – methane, ethane, propane, butane and pentanes – as well as water vapour, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and other gases. A processing plant separates the natural gas liquids and removes other substances from the gas stream.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Facilities

LNG facilities convert natural gas into liquid by cooling the gas. In a liquefied state, natural gas takes up 1/600th of the volume of natural gas in its gaseous state, which makes it more efficient to transport. When it reaches its destination, the LNG is re-gasified.

Canada’s LNG market is in its infancy but continues to make big strides every year. The LNG Canada project located in Kitimat, British Columbia, is the first LNG export terminal to begin construction in the country. At peak construction, it is expected to require 4,500-7,500 workers and will create approximately 300-450 permanent jobs. It will connect to natural gas fields in Northeastern British Columbia via the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

There are several other projects proposed along the northern coast of British Columbia, which will open the doors to more jobs and more growth. The Woodfibre LNG project will use renewable hydro-electricity for power, making it the cleanest LNG facility in the world. There are also two Indigenous-owned LNG plants – Cedar LNG , a proposed export facility in Kitimat, BC and Ksi Lisims LNG near Gingolx, BC. Both proposed plants are designed to export industry-leading low-carbon, low-cost Canadian LNG for Asia-Pacific markets. 

With 18 proposed LNG projects across Canada, there will be a lot of demand for construction workers who have relevant oil and gas experience. (Source: Conference Board of Canada and Natural Resources Canada)

Though fewer people are required once an LNG facility is operational, ongoing jobs include:

  • Trades: mechanics, electricians, instrumentation technicians
  • Plant and control room operators
  • Engineers: mechanical, chemical, electrical, IT
  • Functional support: administration, marine, technology and HSSE, accounting, HR, and lab technician roles.
The LNG Process

Here are a few emerging LNG opportunities: