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Pipelines are metal or plastic tubes of varying sizes used to transport crude oil, refined petroleum products, and natural gas liquids from production areas to refineries and other processing facilities all around the world. Pipelines transport billions of barrels of crude oil and petroleum products each year. These liquids are moved through pipelines by pumping stations placed intermittently along the line.

There are two main types of energy pipelines: liquid petroleum pipelines and natural gas pipelines. Liquid petroleum pipelines carry materials like crude oil and refined petroleum products. Natural gas pipelines carry natural gas, usually to homes and businesses. In the United States alone, there are roughly 200,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines and 2.5 million miles of natural gas pipelines crisscrossing the nation.

If oil and gas is the lifeblood of our mobile world, then pipelines are the arteries and veins. While these assets are necessary for the continued expansion of the global oil and gas network, they do pose significant challenges. Pipelines can be hundreds, if not thousands of miles long, and not only travel under oceans, rivers, lakes, and mountains, but directly under populated towns and cities. This makes proper pipeline integrity management imperative. Pipeline construction, maintenance, inspection, and cleaning must all be performed using best practices and advanced technologies to ensure they continue to operate safely and reliably. Advanced pigging and in-line inspection techniques should be utilized. Cathodic protection and coatings are also important for protecting pipelines from corrosion and other forms of degradation.

Industry Organizations & Regulators

Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL)

The Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) is a nonprofit organization representing the interests of liquid pipeline owners and operators transporting crude oil, petroleum products like gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and home heating oil, and industrial products like propane and ethane. As a trade association, AOPL:

  • Represents common carrier crude and petroleum product pipelines, as well as carbon dioxide pipelines, before Congress, regulatory agencies, and the courts;
  • Provides coordination and leadership on key industry issues, including pipeline rates and services, pipeline safety initiatives, pipeline security, and the industry’s Environmental and Safety Initiative; and
  • Acts as an information clearinghouse for the public, media, and pipeline industry regarding liquid pipeline issues.

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) agency that develops and enforces regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation's 2.6 million mile pipeline transportation system and the nearly 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials by land, sea, and air. The PHMSA is one of ten agencies within the U.S. DOT.

Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI)

Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI) is an organization dedicated to advancing the pipeline industry through cooperative research and analysis. PRCI is a community of the world’s leading pipeline companies, and the vendors, service providers, equipment manufacturers, and other organizations supporting the pipeline industry.

In 2015, PRCI opened a new Technology Development Center (TDC) in Houston, Texas. This facility will be used to address the key issues that the energy pipeline industry is facing to ensure the safety and integrity of the vital national and international pipeline system.

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