Different Types of Pipelines You Should Know

5 different types of pipelines that impact our lives every day

Pipelines affect everything we do. They’re used to transport all kinds of fluids and solids, from crude oil and natural gas to water

Here’s a short summary of the different types of pipelines, explaining why we use them, and their distinct advantages over other types of transport.

  1. Oil Pipelines

Oil pipelines can be divided into two types – crude oil pipelines and product pipelines:

  • Crude oil pipelines transport unrefined petroleum from the well to the refinery.
  • Product pipelines transport refined products, such as heating oil, gasoline and kerosene, from the refinery to market.

The same pipeline can be used to carry different refined products, but in different batches. A rubber ball can be placed between the batches to separate them.

Oil moving through pipelines usually contains special additives that help reduce internal corrosion of the pipe, and energy loss.

The world’s largest crude oil pipeline spans North America from Edmonton, Alberta, through Chicago, Illinois to Montreal, Quebec.

  1. Gas Pipelines

Natural gas is generally transported to market from stationary facilities such as import/export facilities or gas wells via overland pipelines. Other transportation methods, such as truck, train or barge, are expensive and considerably more dangerous.

There are three different types of gas pipelines:

  • Gathering systems, which harvest the natural resource from production wells.
  • Transmission systems, which deliver it from the plant to ports, refineries or urban distribution hubs.
  • Distribution systems, which deliver it directly to homes and businesses.
  1. Pneumatic Pipelines

Also known as pneumo transport, pneumatic pipelines transport solid particles, such as ore, coal or aggregate, through air. Air is a good carrier as it doesn’t react with most solids, and it’s free.

Pneumatic pipelines require high amounts of energy to operate, and both the pipeline and the materials being transported are subjected to high abrasion, so they are usually used for distances less than a few hundred feet. However, large pneumatic pipelines can be economical for longer distances, in some circumstances. 

  1. Capsule Pipelines 

A capsule pipeline transports goods in capsules driven via fluid. This fluid moves through the pipeline, pushing the capsule toward its destination. Large diameter capsule pipelines can be used to transport most cargoes that would otherwise be carried by trucks, trains, or barges.

In both the U.S. and Europe it has been proposed that large capsule pipelines could be an effective way to decrease traffic congestion, road accidents and air pollution. By transporting goods quickly and efficiently via pipelines, they would effectively reduce the need for trucks and trains.

  1. Pipelines for Other Fluids

There are many other types of fluids that can be transported via pipelines, such as liquid fertilizers, water, slurry, beer and sewage.

On a smaller scale, food and pharmaceutical plants also use pipelines to transport various types of liquids or gases within plants.

Final Thoughts

These are some of the most common types of pipeline, but there are many more.

Safety planning and stringent spill prevention systems have ensured pipelines continue to have an excellent safety record compared to other transportation methods. For more safety information regarding energy pipelines, check out the helpful resources at About Pipelines.