Tazewell County New Oil Pipeline


Frequently Asked Questions

What kinds of products are transported in pipelines?

a. The Enbridge operated pipelines in Tazewell County carry exclusively crude oil. Other pipelines can carry natural gas, and sometimes liquid gases such as: liquid ethylene, butane, and propane.

What is crude oil?

a. Crude oil, also known as liquid petroleum, is a mixture of hydrocarbons, organic compounds, and small amounts of metal, formed through heating and compression deep within the Earth over time. Oil is extracted from the ground through many methods, the most common of which being drilling. After extraction, crude oil is transported to refineries via road, rail, tankers, and pipelines. Crude oil is refined into a variety of products such as gasoline, plastics, fertilizers, asphalt, and more.

What is the standard operating pressure of a crude oil pipeline?

a. Crude oil pipelines generally operate between 600 – 1000 psi (pounds per square inch). Pump stations along the route maintain the flow and are usually powered by electricity.

Is there more risk involved transporting heavier oil from the oil sands?

a. No. Several studies completed by regulators and experts, including a recent study sponsored by the US Department of Transportation, have shown there is no more risk of corrosion from this grade of crude oil (known as diluted bitumen, or “dilbit”) than there is for any other type of heavy crude oil. Further, dilbit has density and viscosity ranges that are comparable to other crude oil, and is transported at flow rates, pressure, and operating temperatures typical of crude oils with similar density and viscosity. Organic acids in dilbit have no corrosivity properties at standard pipeline operating temperatures (in fact, they have no corrosivity properties under 400ºF).

What causes pipeline failures?

a. Pipeline failures can occur for many reasons, including: corrosion, environmentally-assisted cracking, equipment failure, material defects, environmental incidents like landslides or washouts, and human interference (damage by digging with heavy machinery). You should call 811 before you dig to know what is below. Pipeline operator staff assist farmers and other landowners by locating and marking the precise location of a pipeline before any digging can commence.

What farming activities can possibly damage pipelines?

Farming activities that could result in pipeline damage include but are not limited to: deep tilling, drain tile installation or repair, digging a pond or a well, and installing fence posts or septic systems. In general, if you are plowing or tilling more than 12” deep call 811 before you dig.

Does the pipeline restrict land use?

a. There may be some restrictions within the pipeline right-of-way in order to maintain public safety. For farmers, the land above a pipeline can still be farmed and, based on agreements with the company, you may drive farming equipment over the right-of-way provided the equipment meets specifications. However, buildings and structures cannot be installed immediately over the pipeline right-of-way as they would cause safety hazards.

What are the pipeline company's responsibilities after construction?

a. The company is responsible for all aspects of the pipeline during construction, during operation, and after the company stops using the pipeline (abandonment). Companies are also responsible for routine inspections and maintenance of in-service pipelines to ensure pipeline integrity and prevent failures.

What are the benefits of pipelines?

a. Pipelines are necessary to deliver fuel for everyday uses such as: fueling your cars, buses, trains, airplanes, etc. Without pipelines, the alternative would be to transport by tanker trucks, tanker ships, and rail cars. Each of these methods present higher safety risks than pipeline transportation.

How safe are oil pipelines?

Pipelines are the safest, most efficient, and most reliable way to transport liquid and natural gas energy resources. Enbridge operates the longest and most complex liquids pipeline system in the world. Over the past decade, Enbridge has transported nearly 13 billion barrels of crude oil with a safe delivery record that’s better than 99.999 percent.

Inline inspection tools, aerial patrols, and pressure monitoring assist in identifying potential problems. Strategically placed, remotely operated valves further mitigate the hazards of a pipeline spill. Internally, corrosion inhibitors are applied to the oil to nullify the potentially corrosive effect of water.

During construction of a pipeline, each weld is carefully x-rayed to verify its integrity. A special anti-corrosive coating is applied to the outside of the pipe to prevent rust. The entire length of the pipe undergoes a high-pressure water test, known as hydrostatic testing, to ensure pipeline durability.

Through rigorous maintenance and inspection, a pipe can remain in service indefinitely.

How can you tell where a pipeline is located?

a. Warning signs and identification markers are located along the pipeline right-of-way, and at prominent spots along the pipeline route such as: roads, railroads, water crossings, pump stations, and tank farms. Pipelines are marked with warning signs to avoid damage from digging, which is the one of the leading causes of pipeline leaks. Anyone planning to dig should call 811 at least a couple of days before digging. 811 is the national number for “call before you dig.” The call is routed to your local One Call Center who will identify your digging location and send a professional locator to mark underground lines at no charge.

How fast does oil travel through the pipeline?

a. Generally oil moves through the pipeline at about three to five miles per hour.