Transporting Gas by Land

Published on 01.06.2015
High School

5 min read

Pipelines continue to be the preferred mode of natural gas transportation despite the growth of over the last several years. Built from one set location to another, pipelines can sometimes raise complex geopolitical problems. 

Transporting gas by land

While the share of LNG transported by is rising constantly in global trade, pipelines are still the main mode of transportation for natural gas, particularly when it comes to intra-regional trade, that is, between countries within the same geographic area.

20 km/h:
The rate at which gas travels through a pipeline.

There are two types of :

  • pipelines, like those making up the Russian network, which, at almost 160,000 kilometers, is the longest in the world.
  • Subsea pipelines, such as those linking Norwegian gas deposits to European terminals, or North Africa to Italy.

It costs three to four times as much to transport gas by pipeline than it does oil. This is because, for safety reasons, gas pipelines are generally located underground. In addition, the gas must be pressurized by compressor stations at intervals of 120 to 150 kilometers to ensure that it moves through the network at a rate of 15 to 20 kilometers per hour.

On the intra-regional level, more than three-quarters of natural gas volumes traded are transported via gas pipelines. By contrast, on the inter-continental level, gas is transported in roughly equal shares in LNG form and by pipeline (in the case of neighboring continents)1.

It costs three to four times as much to transport gas by pipeline than is does oil.

Unlike LNG, which can be transported by sea using flexible routes, pipeline gas is transmitted from one set location to another according to set routes. In some regions, rough terrain, harsh weather or unfavorable political conditions make it impossible to build a pipeline.


For these reasons, setting up gas pipelines and choosing their routes can have major geopolitical implications, as demonstrated by the pipelines supplying Europe with gas from Russia, for example. For decades, 80% of Russian gas transited through Ukraine, which at the time was an integral part of the Soviet Union. However, by 2015, this share had fallen to 50% and could eventually dwindle to a mere 25% due to the ongoing political tensions between the two countries. As a result, Moscow has been compelled to bypass Ukraine both in the north, beneath the Baltic Sea, and in the south, through Turkey.


Transporting natural gas is an increasingly important issue given that the resource is the only type of fossil for which consumption is expected to grow in the coming years. Based on the scenario of the for keeping the global temperature increase to a maximum of 2°C, gas should account for 23% of the world’s by 2035, compared with 19% in 1990. The IEA’s 2°C scenario also assumes that will drop from 25% to 16% of the world energy mix and oil from 37% to 25% over the same period.




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