Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pipelines through the centuries

Pipelines are considered to be indispensable in the oil and gas industry. Vital in gas transport processes, a pipeline system is “a transportation network of pipes, valves, and other parts connected together to deliver gaseous or liquid products from a source (supplier) to a final destination.”

Image Source: news.kievukraine.info

Pipelines, however, seem to have preceded modern natural gas use. Historical evidence suggests that pipelines existed as early as 900 B.C. The Chinese used bamboo tubes to build contraptions that resembled modern pipelines and utilized these apparatuses to carry natural gas.

In the United States, natural gas use didn’t take place until 1821. During this era, pipelines were composed of crude wooden structures which were made from no more than hollowed-out logs. These carried gas from “burning springs” to adjacent buildings where the gas was utilized for lighting. Because of this precarious nature of the technology, engineers came up with the iron pipe in 1843 to mitigate the risks of piping gas.

Image Source: storage.canoe.ca

The rise of modern pipelines

World War II marked an unprecedented surge in petroleum demand for the United States, especially in its war mobilization efforts. The demand heightened after the loss of 50 petroleum tankers which were seized by marauding German submarines. To cater to this emergent situation, the pipeline industry launched a massive program of emergency construction.

The most noteworthy pipeline project at the time was the construction of War Emergency Pipelines (WEP) which was financed by the government. WEP, essentially a nonprofit corporation, was composed of 11 pipeline and oil companies which were organized under government sponsorship. Since 1942, during the the height of WWII, WEP kicked off the construction of the world’s biggest large-capacity cross-country petroleum pipeline system. Of note is an oil line dubbed Big Inch, a line with a diameter of 24 inches and which spanned for 1,340 miles.

Image Source: loc.gov

From then on, the science of pipeline production has moved on to look for better and more modern ways to transport natural gas between destinations.

This Dr. Ali Ghalambor Twitter account provides updates on the latest in the petroleum industry.

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