Answering Aunt Edna

Pipeline Safety

Aunt Edna has been hearing about pipelines in the news recently, due to the discussion around the Dakota Access Pipeline Project, a 1,172-mile pipeline designed to carry oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation to existing pipelines in Illinois in order to reach major refining markets in the Midwest, East Coast and Gulf Coast.

And it made her wonder – Why do we need pipelines? Are they safe?

Why do we need pipelines?

  • Pipelines transport the oil, gasoline and diesel used to fuel the cars, school buses, trucks and airplanes we rely on for transportation every day and the natural gas that provides energy for U.S. factories and is used to heat our homes.
  • Producers rely on pipelines, rail, or trucks to transport oil and natural gas from well sites to refineries and processing plants and then onward to consumers and businesses.
  • Out of these transportation methods, pipelines are the safest. According to the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “Pipelines are the safest, most environmentally-friendly, and most efficient and reliable mode of transportation for gas and hazardous liquids.”
  • A Manhattan Institute report that reviewed accident statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded, “The evidence is clear: transporting oil and natural gas by pipeline is safe. Furthermore, pipeline transportation is safer than transportation by road, rail, or barge, as measured by incidents, injuries, and fatalities—even though more road and rail incidents go unreported.”
  • Pipelines have been used to transport oil and natural gas for decades. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the 2.5 million miles of pipelines traversing all fifty states are enough to circle the earth about a hundred times.

So pipelines are safer than rail and truck. But just how safe are they?

  • According to research done by the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) and American Petroleum Institute (API), at least 99.999% of the crude oil and petroleum products that pipelines deliver reach their destination safely.
  • Pipeline operators spent more than $2.1 billion in 2013 evaluating, inspecting and maintaining their pipelines and facilities.
  • Pipelines are regulated, monitored and inspected by federal, state and local agencies responsible for ensuring that they are safe, reliable and environmentally sound.

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‘Answering Aunt Edna’ is a recurring series that is designed to help CAN members answer tough questions from their friends, family and neighbors.