Energy from oil and natural gas is essential and will continue to be essential to all facets of our daily lives. This energy fuels most of our transportation needs; heats our homes, schools, offices, and shops; and even generates a share of our electricity. Oil and natural gas together supply approximately two-thirds of the U.S.’s energy needs.
Crude oil and natural gas are generally produced in regions located far from consumption centers. This means crude oil must be moved to refineries, and refined products and natural gas must be moved from producing regions to consumption centers.
The two major types of energy pipelines are:
- Liquids pipelines that transport products such as crude oil or natural gas liquids to refineries for processing and refining. They also transport refined petroleum products like gasoline or jet fuel.
- Natural gas pipelines that transport gas to processing and power plants and are also used to distribute natural gas to our homes and businesses.
Did you know there are also four sub-categories of pipelines that each have different functions?
- Gathering lines: like their name implies, these pipelines gather products from wells and move them short distances to processing plants, where impurities, water, and associated gasses are removed. These pipelines are 10 to 30 centimeters in diameter.
- Feeder lines: these pipelines are of relatively large diameter, usually 15 to 30 cm and move crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids from storage tanks and processing facilities to larger transmission pipelines.
- Transmission pipelines: liquids or natural gas transmission pipelines carry natural gas, natural gas liquids, crude oil and refined products long distances across the country or to markets in the U.S. They can range from 10 centimeters in diameter to over a meter.
- Distribution pipelines: these are the pipelines that are generally found around your neighborhood. They bring natural gas to homes and businesses and range in diameter from one to 15 centimeters.
How do transmission pipelines work?
Liquids transmission pipelines are very versatile and can transport a variety of grades of crude oil and crude oil products. Powerful pumps are used to push the liquid through the pipe, moving the products at around walking speed.
Natural gas transmission pipelines use compressors at intervals along the pipeline route to increase the pressure of the gas within to push it along. The diameter of the pipe and volume of gas to be moved determine the size of the compressor station and the number of compressors (pumps).
This network of pipelines are the unsung heroes supporting our everyday way of life through the movement of such things as water, sewer, crude oil and petroleum products and natural gas – in many cases tucked under our streets. They safely go through neighborhoods and communities, stretch across farms, forests, deserts, and everywhere in between.