Where Are the Oil & Gas Pipelines in America?

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Oil and gas pipelines transport fuels to supply consumers with gasoline and power.
Oil and gas pipelines transport fuels to supply consumers with gasoline and power. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

There are approximately 60,000 miles of oil pipelines and 306,000 miles of natural gas pipelines. The largest oil and gas pipelines occur in the central midwest. The largest oil pipeline network stretches from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico and the largest natural gas pipeline network meanders through parts of Colorado, the Dakotas, Kansas and surrounding states. Oil and gas pipelines in America are located in areas where the industry can most efficiently transport fuels from supply areas to areas of demand. Supply areas are locales where fuels are extracted or where foreign suppliers deliver. Demand locations are gasoline refineries, urban areas, and large-scale consumers, such as natural gas powered utility plans and industrial facilities.

Function

The function of natural gas pipelines is to transport fuel safely from source to users. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), run by the U.S. Department of Transportation, regulates gas pipelines in the United States to protect human health and the environment. PHMSA requires the construction of safe pipelines, including siting requirements, looking at geography, proximity to urban areas and fault lines, as well as guidance on maintaining the integrity of pipelines. The purposes of these requirements is to prevent explosions and guard against leaks that release contaminants into the environment harming wildlife and affecting water supplies.

The function of oil pipelines is to transport oil economically. Oil pipelines are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to insure reasonable rates for shippers.

Mapping Information

Oil and natural gas pipeline maps are significant to identify most efficient routes for transport of oil and gas. PHMSA provides maps with geospatial data plus or minus 500 feet along with attribute data, public contact information and metadata for natural gas pipelines. Association of Oil Pipe Lines provides a map of crude oil and refined products pipe lines. Rextag Strategies provides free downloadable digital maps for interstate natural gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas sites and pipeline, crude oil pipelines, and refined product pipelines.

Considerations

Public awareness of pipelines is important. The public should notify authorities of unusual activities around pipelines to avoid acts of terrorism and they should notify operators to avoid dangerous excavations. A special program is available for anyone who is going to excavate an area. They should call 811 48 to 71 hours prior to excavation to give notice of their plans to dig. The call center then notifies owners and operators of underground facilities who will mark areas unsafe for digging.

Routing

Transportation costs affect the price of gasoline at the pump. A shorter or more direct route from supply to refinery means better prices at the pump.

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