Pipeline Basics

Pipelines are conduits made from pipes connected end-to-end for long-distance fluid or gas transport.  (See: Pipeline construction) However, the term “pipelines” has often been used as inclusive of pipeline infrastructure (compressor stations, pipe, valves and other appurtenances attached or connected to the pipe); particularly in crafting legislative policy.   As a result, defining pipelines, or pipeline infrastructure, can be confusing.   

Pipelines are categorized by what they carry and where they go.  They are also defined and categorized by the type of pipeline, location, range and fuel transported.  Each category may vary by pipeline size, operating pressure, construction materials, and designation of regulatory authority in terms of siting, construction, specifications, maintenance, inspections, and decommissioning.    

Gas transmission pipelines are usually located underground, beneath creeks, rivers, highways, roads, farmland, and parks, and near homes, businesses, schools or other community centers.  They are in rights-of-way (ROW) which are property easements acquired by the pipeline company that run contiguously in order to deliver fuel to markets.  ROWs can be permanent or temporary acquisitions.  ROW Briefing  

Based on 2012 data generated from annual reports to PHMSA from pipeline operators, the national pipeline network includes approximately:
  • 182,000 miles of Hazardous Liquid and Carbon Dioxide pipelines;
  • 325,000 miles of onshore and offshore Gas Transmission and Gathering Systems pipelines;
  • 2,145,000 miles of Gas Distribution mains and services pipelines;
  • 129 LNG Facilities connected to our gas transmission and distribution systems; and
  • Propane Distribution System pipelines (data held by utilities and is not required to be disclosed to PHMSA)  

Pipeline operators are required to mark underground pipeline paths with colored markers.  Markers appear in various shapes, sizes and colors and contain information emergency contact information for the company that operates it.

Pipeline Basics will introduce you to:  
  • Types of Pipelines and Pipeline Infrastructure - Wellhead to Consumer Pipeline Infrastructure 
  • Who regulates what? -  Siting and Safety
  • Where are pipelines located?

Here is more information about pipelines that you may find interesting:
Natural Gas Pipeline Systems: From the Wellhead to the Consumer
Petroleum Pipeline Systems: From the Wellhead to the Consumer
Basics of Gas and Oil Exploration
Technologies of Gas and Oil Exploration
Early Days of the Oil Industry
Pipeline Construction