Pipeline Petroleum

Pipeline Petroleum

What is pipeline petroleum?

Petroleum, also known as crude oil, is a common fossil fuel.1 Petroleum pipelines transport oil or natural gas liquids.2 It is the cheapest and most efficient method of moving the product from production wells, to refineries, to distribution centres.3 Nevertheless, numerous incidents have shown the detrimental effects petroleum pipelines can have on the environment and the public’s safety.4 

Over how many miles does natural gas and petroleum in pipelines extend across the US?

Across the US, there are more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines.5 Compared to using trains or tanker trucks, pipelines are extremely cheap and efficient. It costs about USD $5 per barrel to transport via pipeline.6 In contrast, it costs USD $10-15 per barrel by rail and USD $20 per barrel by truck.7 The use of pipelines, therefore, helps to keep energy prices low for the consumer.8 About 70 per cent of crude oil and petroleum products are shipped by pipeline in the US.9 

However, using pipeline petroleum has other impacts besides the cost. Burning fossil fuels such as petroleum contributes to global warming.10 Carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere where it traps heat and contributes to climate change.11 Transportation contributes to the highest proportion of US greenhouse gas emissions at over 28 per cent.12 Over 90 per cent of the fuel used in transportation is petroleum-based.13 If the petroleum comes from oil sands, the environmental effect is even worse. Oil sands’ extraction is particularly energy and water-intensive, and it produces huge toxic tailings ponds.14 

How safe is it living near a petroleum pipeline?

Virtually every community in North America has a nearby supply of petroleum, natural gas and other fuels.15 But, there are health risks associated with living near a petroleum pipeline – even one that is fully functioning. Exposure to hazardous air pollutants, including carcinogens like benzene, is more likely for residents close to oil pipelines and facilities.16 This can increase the risk of acute and chronic health issues, including cancer.17  

Spills through ruptures are the biggest safety risk for those living near a petroleum pipeline. Petroleum products are flammable, they contain toxic chemicals and can pollute groundwater.18 The older a pipeline is, the more vulnerable it is to corrosion.19 The bitumen extracted from oil sands is more corrosive to pipelines and is, therefore, more dangerous to transport.20 Alberta’s oil sands region experienced 758 small scale ruptures in their pipelines between 1990 and 2005.21 Large oil spills can cause massive devastation. The Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010 cost USD $1.21 billion and took over six years to clean up.22 It also forced the evacuation of about 40 nearby homes.23 

Sources

  1. National Geographic Society (2013). petroleum. [online] National Geographic Society. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/petroleum/.
  2. Alliance, F. (2016). An Introduction to Oil and Gas Pipelines. [online] FracTracker Alliance. Available at: https://www.fractracker.org/2016/06/introduction-oil-gas-pipelines/.
  3. Alliance, F. (2016). An Introduction to Oil and Gas Pipelines. [online] FracTracker Alliance. Available at: https://www.fractracker.org/2016/06/introduction-oil-gas-pipelines/.
  4. Alliance, F. (2016). An Introduction to Oil and Gas Pipelines. [online] FracTracker Alliance. Available at: https://www.fractracker.org/2016/06/introduction-oil-gas-pipelines/.
  5. Dot.gov. (2019). General Pipeline FAQs | PHMSA. [online] Available at: https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/faqs/general-pipeline-faqs.
  6. Hansen, M. (n.d.). . [online] . Available at: https://www.strata.org/pdf/2017/pipelines.pdf.
  7. Hansen, M. (n.d.). . [online] . Available at: https://www.strata.org/pdf/2017/pipelines.pdf.
  8. InsideSources. (2017). Pipelines Are Safe and Efficient. [online] Available at: https://www.insidesources.com/pipelines-safe-efficient/#:~:text=Pipelines%20are%20both%20a%20safe [Accessed 26 Jan. 2021].
  9. Conca, J. (n.d.). Which Is Safer For Transporting Crude Oil: Rail, Truck, Pipeline Or Boat? [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2018/10/11/which-is-safer-for-transporting-crude-oil-rail-truck-pipeline-or-boat/?sh=2a6b35c27b23 [Accessed 26 Jan. 2021].
  10. Denchak, M. (2018). Fossil Fuels: The Dirty Facts. [online] NRDC. Available at: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/fossil-fuels-dirty-facts#:~:text=Fossil%20fuels%20produce%20large%20quantities.
  11. Denchak, M. (2018). Fossil Fuels: The Dirty Facts. [online] NRDC. Available at: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/fossil-fuels-dirty-facts#:~:text=Fossil%20fuels%20produce%20large%20quantities.
  12. US EPA (2018). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. [online] US EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions.
  13. US EPA (2018). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. [online] US EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions.
  14. Oil Change International. (n.d.). Extreme Fossil Fuels. [online] Available at: http://priceofoil.org/campaigns/extreme-fossil-fuels/no-extreme-fossil-fuels-tar-sands/ [Accessed 26 Jan. 2021].
  15. Global Energy Institute. (n.d.). One More Pipeline Myth Debunked. [online] Available at: https://www.globalenergyinstitute.org/one-more-pipeline-myth-debunked [Accessed 26 Jan. 2021].
  16. ScienceDaily. (n.d.). Those living near oil and gas facilities may be at higher risk of disease: Hazardous air pollutant levels measured along the Northern Front Range exceed levels that could affect health. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180409103920.htm [Accessed 26 Jan. 2021].
  17. ScienceDaily. (n.d.). Those living near oil and gas facilities may be at higher risk of disease: Hazardous air pollutant levels measured along the Northern Front Range exceed levels that could affect health. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180409103920.htm [Accessed 26 Jan. 2021].
  18. energyeducation.ca. (n.d.). Pipeline – Energy Education. [online] Available at: https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Pipeline.
  19. energyeducation.ca. (n.d.). Pipeline – Energy Education. [online] Available at: https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Pipeline.
  20. Oil Change International. (n.d.). Extreme Fossil Fuels. [online] Available at: http://priceofoil.org/campaigns/extreme-fossil-fuels/no-extreme-fossil-fuels-tar-sands/ [Accessed 26 Jan. 2021].
  21. energyeducation.ca. (n.d.). Pipeline – Energy Education. [online] Available at: https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Pipeline.
  22. mlive. (2014). New price tag for Kalamazoo River oil spill cleanup: Enbridge says $1.21 billion. [online] Available at: https://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2014/11/2010_oil_spill_cost_enbridge_1.html.
  23. mlive. (2016). Kalamazoo River oil spill timeline after 6 years, billion-plus dollars spent. [online] Available at: https://www.mlive.com/news/2016/07/kalamazoo_river_oil_spill_time.html [Accessed 26 Jan. 2021].