3 Pipeline Facts That Might Surprise You

Paul Takahashi reports in the Houston Chronicle that 18 upstream oil and gas companies filed for bankruptcy protection during the second quarter of this year.

If you take a hot shower, cook a nice meal or gas up your car, you have experienced the power of pipelines. Like the veins and arteries keeping our bodies functioning, we know they are there but rarely think about them. Without pipelines, it would be economically unsound and physically difficult to get crude oil, natural gas, water and other liquids and gases where they need to go. The cost of gasoline would skyrocket. Natural gas would not be as accessible as it is now. Trucking and rail transport are not as dependable, affordable or as safe as pipeline transport. You might be surprised at just how many pipelines are running under your feet. Here are three things you might not have known about pipelines:

  1. The United States has the largest network of energy pipelines in the world. Of all pipelines everywhere, the United States is home to 65% of them. In a very distant second is Russia with 8%. Canada is a far off third with 3%. America’s energy independence can be traced in large part to these miles and miles of pipelines. Without them, our abundant resources would be almost useless.
  2. If you type “pipeline capital of the world” into Google, what comes up? Did you guess Cushing, Oklahoma? In 1912 an oil boom in Cushing began that city on its path to becoming an oil industry hub. It is a small town of around 8,000 people, but it has the major responsibility of receiving crude oil, storing and blending it, then sending it on to Midcontinent, Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries. In addition, Cushing is a price settlement point for West Texas Intermediate (WTI). WTI is the Texas light sweet grade of crude oil used as a benchmark in oil pricing for the United States.
  3. All those steel and iron pipelines running through Cushing and under streets everywhere have a surprising guardian: electricity. Metal can corrode over time, so in order to protect our pipeline networks of oil, gas and water we use something called cathodic protection. This type of protection uses two kinds of metal: the steel of the pipeline and another metal that is more prone to corrosion, a “sacrificial metal.” These two metals are connected by an electric line, and the corrosion that would occur on the iron or steel of the main pipeline is transferred to the sacrificial one. 

As you go about your daily business, give a thought to the pipelines all around you. They bring water, take away waste, provide oil refineries with crude oil, and natural gas to your home. Pipelines are all around, and because you haven’t noticed them, they must be doing their job very, very well.

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