Constructing pipelines can be difficult and expensive, but once built, they provide one of the safest and most economical means of transporting oil and gas and the subsequent refined petroleum products.
Pipelines, which are made from steel or plastic, often are found about 3 ft underground, but can also be constructed on the sea floor. Oil and natural gas flows from drill sites to refineries and from refineries to terminals through a vast network of pipelines with the help of pump stations.
At the terminal, natural gas is transported to homes and businesses using small feeder lines. However, gasoline is transported to service stations by tankers.
Vladimir Shukhov, a Russian engineer, developed pipeline transport in the 19th century as a more economical solution to rail transport. The first US crude oil pipeline was open for business in Pennsylvania in 1865 and transported crude through a 5 cm diameter, 9 km long wrought iron pipe.
There are several kinds of pipelines. These include:
- Flowlines - Transport production from well to storage tank on land. Offshore, they transport crude or natural gas from wells to platform.
- Lease lines - Transport production from a single lease to a storage tank.
- Gathering lines - Collect oil and gas from more than one location and deliver to central collection site.
- Feeder lines - Collect production from more than one location and brings it to a trunkline.
- Crude trunk lines - Transport natural gas and crude from production point to refineries and from refineries to terminals.
- Petroleum product trunk line - Transport liquid petroleum products from refineries to terminals, bulk plants, or other storage facilities.