Pipelines are not the only way to move petroleum and refined petroleum products. The real question is: how do they stack up against the other transportation modes– tank ships and barges, trucks and railroad tank cars?
Approximately 71% of crude oil and petroleum products are shipped by pipeline on a ton-mile basis. Tanker and barge traffic account for 22% of oil shipments. Trucking accounts for four percent of shipments, and rail for the remaining three percent. Essentially, all dry natural gas is shipped by pipeline to end users.
Pipelines move more than two-thirds of all the crude oil and refined products in the United States. According to statistics retained by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States produced almost 10 million barrels of crude oil a day in 2015. This figure is projected to decline to roughly 8.5 million barrels in 2017.
Liquid petroleum pipelines are usually the only feasible way to transport significant volumes by land over long distances. Without pipelines, our streets and highways would be overwhelmed by the trucks trying to keep up with the nation’s demand for petroleum products. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration: It would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to move the volume of even a modest pipeline. The railroad-equivalent of this single pipeline would be a train of 75 2,000-barrel tank rail cars every day. Almost all natural gas is moved by pipeline. Natural gas can be liquefied and turned into liquefied natural gas (LNG) and moved by ship or truck, but few truck shipments of LNG occur in the United States.