Fun fact! Did you know that if you laid all of the underground pipes for natural gas and oil end to end, they would be long enough to wrap around the world 20 times?
So there are a lot of pipelines and not all of them are the exact same. Here we will look at some of the different types of pipelines and why these variations are necessary.
Gathering lines are pipelines that travel just a short distance and gather products from wells and resources in order to move them to oil batteries and natural gas facilities. In other words, these are called ‘gathering lines’ because they ‘gather’ resources and take them for storage.
Feeder lines meanwhile take products from those batteries and facilities and move them to long distance haulers. In other words, this is the first step to getting them away from storage and to wherever they are going to be needed. Of course most cities and towns aren’t fortunate enough to have a large reserve of natural fuel right on site and so they need to first be gathered, fed and then hauled.
Transmission lines are like energy highways. Their job is to transport the natural gas or oil within the specific region where it is needed and across provincial boundaries. These take the fuels to the areas where they are needed ready for use.
Finally, the distribution pipelines are the ones owned by the local distribution companies – or LDCs. These are the ones that will take the products to individual customers or to the commercial gas stations.
How Pipeline Transport Works
So now you know – when you turn on your hob and the gas comes on, you are actually getting that gas not only from the pipes within your own home but rather from a series and network of pipes of increasingly small diameter that take fuels from natural reservoirs, to containers, to haulers, to towns, to houses. These all work very similarly to the pipes within your own home and still operate through pressure which ‘pushes’ the product along the pipeline and to the desired destination. This pressure is created via a giant pump in a station. Oil for instance will then travel at around 1-6 meters a second. All this is necessary for oilfield traders to operate and for commercial customers to get their oil and gas.
Pipes aren’t just for gas and oil. They can also be for sewage, slurry, water… even beer! Pipelines of varying kinds are useful for transporting water for irrigation and drinking and more.
Oil pipelines are generally made from either steel or plastic. They often will have an inner diameter than can range anywhere from 4 to 48 inches. Normally they will be buried underground, though sometimes you will see various types of pipeline on supports travelling through barren areas.
Being underground protects pipes from impact, corrosion and more – but additional means such as wood lagging and concrete coating can also be used. While pipelines can be defined by their purpose and by the product they transport, they can also be categorized based on their size and on the various different materials and principles used in their design and construction.