Identifying Research, Development, and Training Needs for Oil and Gas Pipeline Safety and Security

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CAIT project no.: WVU RU4474

Fiscal Year: 2002/2003

Status: Final

Rutgers-CAIT Author(s): Patrick J. Szary

External Author(s): Samuel Ameri



Pipelines are by far the most important mode of petroleum transportation in the United States because of their remarkable efficiency and low transportation cost. Pipelines carry two-thirds of the energy consumed by our nation and are recognized as the safest and most economical way to distribute vast quantities of oil and gas from production fields to refineries to consumers for a foreseeable future.

This sophisticated network of gathering and distribution systems comprises 2.3 million miles of pipelines, varying in size from two inches to 60 inches in diameter.

Pipelines are vital to nation’s economy and are a significant part of national critical infrastructure. The pipeline infrastructure and the volume of products transported have continued to grow as demand for energy has increased. Over the next two decades, the demand for energy is projected to reach record levels. This increased demand for energy combined with the expansion of the cities and suburban areas will require the pipeline infrastructure not only to expand but to reliably and safely deliver energy services in support of the nation’s economy.

The United States has a well-developed system for protection of the public and the environment from dangers of oil and gas pipeline failures. However, there is always a chance that a pipeline can leak. Pipeline leaks can be dangerous to people, to the natural environment, to public land, and private property. Furthermore, the tragic events of September 11th terrorist attacks have focused the attention on the security of nation’s energy sources and the critical energy and transportation infrastructure systems. Therefore, pipeline security and safety has become a high-profile, national concern.