Pipeline transport

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There is some argument as to when the first crude oil pipeline was built However, some say pipeline transport was pioneered by Vladimir Shukhov and the Branobel company in the late 19th century. Others say oil pipelines originated when the Oil Transport Association first constructed a 2-inch (51 mm) wrought iron pipeline over a 6-mile (9.7 km) track from an oil field in Pennsylvania to a railroad station in Oil Creek, in the 1860s. Pipelines are generally the most economical way to transport large quantities of oil, refined oil products or natural gas over land. Compared to shipping by railroad, they have lower cost per unit and higher capacity. Although pipelines can be built under the sea, that process is economically and technically demanding, so the majority of oil at sea is transported by tanker ships.

Oil pipelines are made from steel or plastic tubes with inner diameter typically from 4 to 48 inches (100 to 1,200 mm). Most pipelines are buried at a typical depth of about 3 to 6 feet (0.91 to 1.8 m). The oil is kept in motion by pump stations along the pipeline, and usually flows at speed of about 1 to 6 metres per second (3.3 to 20 ft/s). Multi-product pipelines are used to transport two or more different products in sequence in the same pipeline. Usually in multi-product pipelines there is no physical separation between the different products. Some mixing of adjacent products occurs, producing interface. At the receiving facilities this interface is usually absorbed in one of the product based on pre-calculated absorption rates.

Crude oil contains varying amounts of wax, or paraffin, and in colder climates wax buildup may occur within a pipeline. Often these pipelines are inspected and cleaned using pipeline inspection gauges, pigs, also known as scrapers or Go-devils. Smart pigs (also known as intelligent or intelligence pigs) are used to detect anomalies in the pipe such as dents, metal loss caused by corrosion, cracking or other mechanical damage.[2] These devices are launched from pig-launcher stations and travel through the pipeline to be received at any other station down-stream, either cleaning wax deposits and material that may have accumulated inside the line or inspecting and recording the condition of the line.

For natural gas, pipelines are constructed of carbon steel and varying in size from 2 to 60 inches (51 to 1,500 mm) in diameter, depending on the type of pipeline. The gas is pressurized by compressor stations and is odorless unless mixed with a mercaptan odorant where required by a regulating authority.

For biofuels (ethanol and biobutanol)

Pipelines have been used for transportation of ethanol in Brazil, and there are several ethanol pipeline projects in Brazil and the United States.[3] Main problems related to the shipment of ethanol by pipeline are its high oxygen content, which makes it corrosive, and absorption of water and impurities in pipelines, which is not a problem with oil and natural gas.[3][4] Insufficient volumes and cost-effectiveness are other considerations limiting construction of ethanol pipelines.[4][5]

For coal and ore

Slurry pipelines are sometimes used to transport coal or ore from mines. The material to be transported is closely mixed with water before being introduced to the pipeline; at the far end, the material must be dried. One example is a 525km slurry pipeline which is planned to transport iron ore from the Minas-Rio mine (producing 26.5 million tonnes per year) to a port at Açu in Brazil.[6]

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