The United States has become the worlds leading producer of petroleum. Credit the oil and gas industry, and their cutting edge technologies. It has never been cheaper or safer to extract oil and gas, and the industry future is bright. By far, the safest transportation method known for this product is pipelines.
Emotional and anecdotal arguments against pipelines abound, but the actual data is inarguable. Pipelines are the safest method known to carry petroleum products.
Pipelines already carry the majority of oil and gas. Trucks account for only 4% and rail 3%. ALL the rest is via pipeline. You might surmise that given the volumes carried by pipelines, that’s where most accidents occur, but not so.
Petroleum accidents involving trucks is 19.95% per billion ton miles carried, while liquid pipelines are only .58%. Gas pipelines are only slightly higher at .89%.
To be sure, given the huge volumes carried by pipelines, a spill is a headline grabber. It’s a bit analogous to commercial airlines. Accidents are rare, but significant when they do happen. Nonetheless, no one argues that long distance travel should be by automobile in lieu of aircraft. That in effect, is the argument used by many opposing pipeline construction.
There’s also a special interest side that should not be ignored. It’s not an accident that those opposing pipeline construction are often rail and trucking interests (or funded by them). This has historical precedent: Following the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania, entrepreneur J.L. Hutchings laid a pipeline to carry the new oil. This didn’t sit well with the local teamsters, and Hutchings found himself not only facing the technological hurdles of running a pipeline, but having his equipment smashed.
Here at EMA, we work quite a bit with pipeline companies. We find them to be some of the most safety conscious people we’ve ever been around They are absolutely anal about avoiding spills, and if even a minor accident happens, they carefully analyze what went wrong and fix it. A pipeline leak anywhere in the world usually draws engineers from all pipeline companies to ascertain what happened, and how it can be prevented at their company. EMA provides medium voltage VFDs and services to keep the lines running efficiently.
These companies use astonishing technology to monitor their lines, including the use of smart in pipe inspection “pigs” that actually ride inside the pipe looking for weakness or blockages.
We should all be thankful for the great work done by pipelines in delivering dependable flows or crude, natural gas, and refined products.
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