The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Moving the Energy That Moves America

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 26, 2014

Let’s talk energy infrastructure, focusing on the pipelines and the fuel storage and dispensing facilities in this country that keep commercial jetliners in the air and our vehicles moving on the roads and highways.

According to the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, transmission liquids pipelines – including interstate pipelines or other large intrastate, main- or trunk-line pipelines – delivered more than 8.3 billion barrels of crude oil in 2013, an 11.3 percent increase over 2012. They delivered more than 6.6 billion barrels of petroleum products (including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel) and natural gas liquids (including propane, butane, ethane), a 0.4 percent increase over 2012. That’s nearly 15 billion barrels in total. AOPL’s chart shows the breakdown in products and growth in volumes since 2009:


Pipeline mileage also is on the rise. In 2013, pipeline operators reported 191,631 miles of liquids pipeline in operation in the United States, with 60,160 miles devoted to crude oil, 63,581 miles transporting refined petroleum products plantation(gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc.) and 62,742 miles delivering natural gas liquids (propane, ethane, butane, etc.). The total of 191,631 miles is a 2.9 percent increase over 2012 and a 15 percent increase over the past 10 years.

Part of that system is visible in suburban Washington, D.C., at the terminus for Kinder Morgan’s 3,100-mile Plantation Pipeline network (left) and the neighboring Newington Terminal, which API staff members toured recently. (Below, Newington fuel storage tanks.)


Plantation pipeline details:

  • Capacity of 600,000 barrels per day of gasoline, jet fuel, diesel and biodiesel produced at nine refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi. Products make the 1,100-mile trip from Baton Rouge to the Washington area in 20 days.
  • Connects to 130 shipper delivery terminals throughout eight states (like the Newington facility).
  • Minimum batches of 15,000 barrels for fungible movements (25,000 barrels for segregated movements).
  • Lines range in diameter from 6 to 30 inches.

Safety and precision mark pipeline operations. Supervisor J.R. Cooper says the company’s operation controls center in Alpharetta, Ga., monitors pressure points and flow rates and can help identify if an abnormal condition exists. Cooper:

The system “is monitored 24/7, and there are several eyes watching (the pipeline systems) – the controllers … team leaders, supervisors and others. And everything they do – if they touch a keystroke – it’s recorded” and can be reviewed at any time.

Cooper said Washington’s two airports are served by dedicated delivery lines from the Plantation terminus itself.

controlOther fuels are delivered to the terminal next door, a 26-acre facility dominated by 15 storage tanks capable of holding more than 850,000 barrels of product and an automated truck rack that dispenses fuels to tanker trucks that serve filling stations in the region.

The tank farm includes separate tanks for regular unleaded gasoline, premium gasoline, jet fuel, ultra low sulfur diesel and ethanol for blending into the gasoline. The largest is the 122,000-barrel jet fuel storage tank. Gasoline tanks range from 40,000 to 97,000 barrels.

connectionsFrom the storage tanks fuel is pumped to the truck rack that uses electronic control systems to control the flow of different fuel types and grades into the trucks. The fuel lines have steel couplings to hook up with the trucks and vapor-capturing mechanisms to recover emissions for recycling. (Additional photos, here.)

Both are impressive facilities where safety is meticulously enforced. They represent the energy infrastructure that keeps America moving. Below, API Pipeline Director Peter Lidiak talks about infrastructure’s role in our every-day lives and in the powering of our economy:


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.