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A successful pilot and collaboration between CBS and VELIN have contributed to this new statistic. The insights obtained help further develop transport policy and monitor future developments.

Statistics Netherlands recently launched a new statistic that maps freight transport via pipelines. The Netherlands is the first country in Europe to take this step. “We are advocating at European level that other countries also do this, because pipelines do not stop at the border,” said Marly Odekerken, director of Traffic and Transport Statistics at Statistics Netherlands.

The launch of this statistic is an important development, especially in the context of the energy transition. “Many people do not know where pipelines are located in our country, what they transport and what their potential is,” says Klaas Winters, director of the Association of Pipeline Owners in the Netherlands (VELIN). This association, consisting of 23 companies with a joint network of 22.000 kilometers of pipelines, has provided data for the new statistics.

According to Odekerken, the reason for this statistic was the obligation of EU countries to provide annual transport data to Eurostat. Although the obligation does not apply to pipelines, they are just as important as other modes of transport such as sea, air and inland shipping, and road and rail traffic. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) therefore requested CBS several years ago to compile official statistics on freight transport via pipelines.

"The Netherlands is the first country in Europe to take this step. At European level, we insist that other countries also do this. After all, pipelines do not stop at a border."

In April 2024 published CBS data for the year 2022 for the first time. From now on, these data will be added annually to the other transport statistics. Privacy of the companies that supply data is a priority. Winters emphasizes that the sector sees the usefulness of these statistics and is happy to take responsibility for centralizing the data and making it available.

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The statistics provide insight into what flows through the pipelines: CO2, natural gas, petroleum products, chemical products, (industrial) water and heat. Most pipes are located 1 to 2 meters underground, but some even run 20 to 30 meters deep under rivers. VELIN members have reported not only the types of goods, but also the transport volumes and the multifunctionality of pipes.

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Photo: transport by pipeline

"Pipelines play an essential role as a hinterland connection for the major ports and provide the large industrial clusters in the Netherlands with energy and raw materials."

These data are of great importance to the government, both nationally and regionally, for policy decisions. The new statistics can help determine the possibilities and limitations of pipelines. Odekerken explains that it is crucial for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to know what flows through the pipes and whether there is capacity for expansion or alternative flows of goods. For example, pipelines can provide a safer alternative to transporting hazardous substances through urban areas.

Winters welcomes the arrival of statistics because it helps with nuanced and realistic decision-making. He explains that high expectations are often unrealistic. A pipeline that transports gasoline today will not be suitable for heat transport tomorrow. Specific pipes are tailored to certain goods, with associated materials, pressure and pump systems. Despite their advantages, such as 24/7 operational capacity and no traffic congestion, there are limitations that need to be taken into account.

The data show the importance of pipelines in Dutch freight transport, which accounts for 16 percent of total transport. This is slightly more than inland shipping (15 percent) and much more than rail transport (2 percent). Odekerken emphasizes that the Netherlands is an example for Europe with this statistic. They advocate that other countries follow suit, given the cross-border nature of pipelines.

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The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, represented by Maarten van Kesteren, policy officer at the Directorate of Maritime Affairs, confirms the importance of pipelines as a connection for large ports and industry clusters. Their role in the transport of CO2 and hydrogen carriers is essential, which is why they are included in the policy agenda for freight transport and mobility. It is also good that this collaboration between the CBS en VELIN will be continued, so that we can monitor further future developments.


The Association of Pipeline Owners in the Netherlands (VELIN) was founded in 1978. 23 companies are affiliated with VELIN, which together have approximately 22.000 kilometers of pipelines within the Netherlands; 15.500 kilometers of high-pressure pipelines for the long-distance transport of gases and also 6.000 km for the long-distance transport of petroleum, petroleum products and other chemicals. VELIN's field of activity is limited to these large pipeline systems that are generally used for interregional transport.

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