Pipelines run beneath our streets, cities, continents and oceans. Without them, and the energy resources they deliver, modern-day conveniences wouldn’t be possible.
We’ve gathered a few facts to show how extensive and essential pipelines are to our way of life.
1. Pipelines run millions of miles.
The U.S. has more than 1,382,569 million miles of pipeline delivering trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of tons of liquid petroleum products each year. It’s been estimated that if all the natural gas pipelines in the U.S. were connected to each other end-to-end, it would reach to the moon and back almost three times.
2. Different pipelines for different products.
Crude oil is gathered in the field and transported by pipeline to refineries. Natural gas is pumped from production wells to refineries using a different type of pipeline. Once oil and natural gas have been refined into other products, they are distributed for use in other regions by a third type of pipeline.
3. We’re No. 1 in the world.
The U.S. has more petroleum pipelines than any other country with 1,232,999 miles in natural gas transport and 149,570 miles in petroleum products, followed by Russia (101,825 miles) and then Canada (62,137 miles).
4. Pipelines, among the safest way to transport.
The National Transportation and Safety Board ranks pipelines as one of the safest means of transporting oil and natural gas. According the Fraser Institute, transportation by rail is 4.5 times more likely to experience an accident while moving natural resources.
5. Pipelines vary in size depending on what they transport.
Pipelines that transport oil and natural gas range anywhere from two inches to four feet in diameter. Determining the appropriate width for a pipeline depends on pressures, temperatures and volumes being transported.
6. PIGs in pipelines?
Pipeline Inspection Gauges (PIGs) are devices sent through pipelines to clean debris and inspect interior surfaces. These preventative measures help to foresee potential threats to a pipeline’s integrity.
7. Pipelines have been around a long time.
The first recorded use of iron pipe to transport oil started soon after the first commercial oil well was established in 1859 by “Colonel” Edwin Drake in Titusville, Pennsylvania.
8. Cushing, OK: Pipeline Capital of the World.
The city of Cushing, Oklahoma is one of the largest pipeline hubs in the world. Some 50 million barrels of crude oil flow into its distribution network each day with the potential to take on up to 80 million barrels. Hundreds of tanks hold more than 2 billion gallons of crude oil in reserve.
9. Protected by electricity and chemistry.
Transmission lines are protected by an electrical shield called cathodic protection, and a current is passed through an electric line connecting the pipeline to a secondary metal. This method causes corrosion to occur on the secondary (sacrificial) metal, rather than the iron or steel pipe.
10. Drones, sealants and fiber-optic technology.
Along with physical inspection by ground personnel, drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and advanced sensors are used to inspect above-ground pipelines. Modern sealants are applied to pipe exteriors to prevent corrosion. And fiber optic cables are ran alongside the pipeline to detect any threats to pipeline integrity.