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Boom in Oil & Gas Pipeline Infrastructure

The advancements in technologies such as hydraulic fracking have enhanced the scope for both natural gas and oil. This is bolstering the demand for a robust pipeline infrastructure to transport the fuel. The pipelines are coming up in several destinations - from rural to urban landscapes.

According to industry experts “As long as the U.S. is reliant on cheap and plentiful natural gas and oil, pipeline infrastructure will need to be built. No other method of transporting these liquids, they say - whether by truck, barge or rail - is as safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly as pipelines”.

Oil & Gas production was on the decline in the US till hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques enabled firms to access deep shale formations that had previously been inaccessible.

In the background of pipeline expansion, there is stiff opposition from certain sections. For instance, the construction of a network of pipeline infrastructure including the spending of billion of dollar would lock the US in fossil fuel development for decades when they must be moving to cleaner energy. Again, experts believe, state and federal regulators authorize projects expeditiously without analysing the risk involved. For e.g.: if there is an accident in a petroleum pipeline, the surrounding area would be polluted by environmentally damaging viscous oil that would require a long time to clean up. On the other hand, gas pipelines are highly pressurized and could lead to explosions.

Environmental groups are resisting pipeline projects:

• The Keystone XL - delivering crude oil extracted from Alberta's tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

• The Northeast Energy Direct Project – delivering gas from the Marcellus formation in the eastern U.S. to England.

• An upcoming $5-billion project from Duke Energy and Dominion to deliver gas to North Carolina.

• Two pipeline projects that would deliver crude oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota to key destinations in Illinois and Oklahoma.

In the US, gas pipelines that are laid across multiple states must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Once the pipelines are installed, the safety of Oil & Gas pipelines is the responsibility of the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). According to The Environmental Protection Agency, the gas pipelines account for 10 percent of the industry's poisonous methane. The technology to liquefy and move natural gas by train or truck is still in the initial stage of development.

- Jess Potts
Published on:
April 20, 2015
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