How Do Pipelines Work?
The pipeline network is divided among gathering, transmission and distribution pipelines.
The U.S. energy transportation supply chain includes many modes, including rail, barge and tanker, with the vast majority of liquids traveling via pipeline.
Gathering and transmission lines transport crude oil from producing areas (the wellhead) to refineries. From there, refined liquids like gasoline and heating oil typically move a long distance by pipeline and a short distance by truck. Gasoline, for example, may enter a pipeline at a Texas refinery and travel to a distribution terminal in a major city like Memphis, Tennessee. Then a truck transports the gasoline to a local gas station. Despite traveling hundreds or potentially thousands of miles, a gallon of gasoline is still more affordable than a gallon of milk.
Home heating oil produced at a refinery along the Gulf Coast may travel more than 1,000 miles to Linden, New Jersey. There, the heating oil is loaded onto a barge and taken to Portland, Maine to a distribution terminal where a truck makes the final trip of 10 to 30 miles to a homeowner’s fuel oil tank.
Liquid pipelines also deliver raw materials that manufacturers use to make the consumer products we use every day. Since transportation of raw materials by pipeline is cost effective, consumer goods cost less to manufacture – savings that are passed on to consumers.