Pipelines & Transportation

Pipeline transport is the transportation of goods or material through a pipe. The best data, in 2014, gives a total of slightly less than 3.5 million km of pipeline in 120 countries of the world. The United States had 65%, Russia had 8%, and Canada had 3%, thus 75% of all pipelines were in three countries.

Pipeline and Gas Journal’s worldwide survey figures indicate that 118,623 miles (190,905 km) of pipelines are planned and under construction. Of these, 88,976 miles (143,193 km) represent projects in the planning and design phase; 29,647 miles (47,712 km) reflect pipelines in various stages of construction. Liquids and gases are transported in pipelines and any chemically stable substance can be sent through a pipeline. Pipelines exist for the transport of crude and refined petroleum, fuels - such as oil, natural gas and biofuels - and other fluids including sewage, slurry, water, and beer. Pipelines are useful for transporting water for drinking or irrigation over long distances when it needs to move over hills, or where canals or channels are poor choices due to considerations of evaporation, pollution, or environmental impact. Pneumatic tubes using compressed air can be used to transport solid capsules.

Oil pipelines are made from steel or plastic tubes which are usually buried. The oil is moved through the pipelines by pump stations along the pipeline. Natural gas (and similar gaseous fuels) are lightly pressurised into liquids known as Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs). Natural gas pipelines are constructed of carbon steel. Highly toxic ammonia is theoretically the most dangerous substance to be transported through long-distance pipelines, but accidents have been rare. Hydrogen pipeline transport is the transportation of hydrogen through a pipe. District heating or teleheating systems use a network of insulated pipes which transport heated water, pressurized hot water or sometimes steam to the customer.

Pipelines conveying flammable or explosive material, such as natural gas or oil, pose special safety concerns and there have been various accidents. Pipelines can be the target of vandalism, sabotage, or even terrorist attacks. In war, pipelines are often the target of military attacks.

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