January 20, 2012

Pipelines across America

map from Pipeline 101
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline debate got me wondering just how many pipelines (both oil and gas) already exist in the US. I've come across a few in our former days of long hikes in the wilderness. And all of us have seen "Pipeline" signs somewhere or other in our neighborhoods. Some of us may have even "discovered" some in our yards when we have not heeded the utility company's warning to "Call before you dig."

We've seen photos of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline because huge portions of it are above ground--unlike most others. And the folks at BP taught us a lot about offshore drilling for oil in 2010.

Above is a graphic map (from Pipeline 101) that answers my question-- approximately 55,000 miles of major crude oil pipelines (from 8 to 24 inches wide) already exist in the US.

We also have another estimated 30,000 to 40,000 miles of small gathering lines (usually 2 to 6 inches in diameter) located primarily in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Wyoming with small systems in a number of other oil producing states.

Then there are approximately 95,000 miles nationwide of refined oil products pipelines--found in almost every state in the US, with the exception of some New England states. These refined product pipelines vary in size from relatively small 8 to 12 inch diameter lines up to 42 inches in diameter.

Click here for more info from this very informative Pipeline 101 website. I know, I know--I must have too much time on my hands to post all this info. But haven't you ever wondered how many miles of pipelines already existed?
 
What about natural gas pipelines?
 
Natural gas, unlike oil, is delivered directly to homes and businesses through pipelines. That is a LOT of miles of pipeline. First, there are about 20,000 miles of natural gas gathering lines. The gathering lines then move natural gas (both onshore and offshore) to 278,000 miles of large cross-country transmission pipelines. Large distribution lines, called mains, move the gas close to cities. These main lines, along with the much smaller lines to homes and businesses, deliver natural under streets in almost every city and town and account for the vast majority of pipeline mileage in the U.S. – 1.8 million miles. No wonder the advice is to "Call before you dig." The natural gas pipelines map is pretty impressive.
 
Twenty interstate natural gas pipeline systems operate within the Northeast Region (Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia). These deliver natural gas to several intrastate natural gas pipelines and at least 50 local distribution companies in the region. In addition, they also serve large industrial concerns and, increasingly, natural gas fired electric power plants. Natural gas is a lot cleaner than coal, so this conversion is a good thing.

The not-so-good aspect is that a lot of this gas comes to us from "fracking." More on that another day.

Domestic natural gas flows into the region from the Southeast into Virginia and West Virginia, and from the Midwest into West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Canadian imports come into the region principally through New York, Maine, and New Hampshire.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies also enter the region through import terminals located in Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Brunswick, Canada. We have seen the huge LNG terminal at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland while sailing in the Chesapeake .

Who Watches Out for Pipeline Safety? The pipeline companies are responsible for the safety and reliability of their own pipeline systems and for protecting wetlands, wildlife, ecosystems and drinking water resources.  BP taught us that the corporate bottom line can trump safety.

But federal and state regulators within a LOT of agencies oversee compliance with a host of regulatory requirements. The safety aspects of pipeline operations are audited and inspected frequently by the federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) in cooperation with the states in which pipelines are located.