The method we choose depends on the project, location, economics, accessibility and environmental considerations. Whatever mode of transportation, safety is our first priority. We are committed to ensuring the well-being of the public, our employees, our contractors, the environment and our assets.
Tankers carry most of the world’s crude oil and liquefied natural gas from producing nations all over the world, often in remote locations, to consuming nations.
On the North Slope of Alaska we have a complex system of pipelines that safely move oil from the wellhead, to processing facilities and then into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system all the way to Valdez. Once the North Slope crude reaches Valdez, tanker vessels owned and operated by Polar Tankers Inc., a wholly owned ConocoPhillips subsidiary, safely transport the oil from Alaska to market.
North America has extensive existing oil and natural gas pipelines to support the development of domestic resources and to help meet global energy demand.
In the U.S., billions of dollars have been invested to build nearly 1.5 million miles of long-distance and local distribution natural gas pipelines made of high-strength carbon steel. Together, they service nearly every corner of the lower 48 states. During the past decade alone, more than 16,000 miles of high-volume interstate natural gas pipelines have been added to the existing system. These have linked the nation’s domestic natural gas supplies to key markets and expanded capacity to receive imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) from around the globe, as well as transport natural gas to planned liquefaction plants. These enhancements help meet service demands during peak periods, equipment outages or weather-related disruptions.
We strive to protect our pipelines from corrosion, excavation damage and other threats. Most pipelines are buried, but they can also be built above ground or underwater, depending on the terrain and the surrounding environment. The oil or natural gas is kept in motion 24 hours a day by a system of pumps or compressor stations.
We currently operate about 30,000 miles of oil, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and/or water pipelines throughout North America, the North Sea and the Asia Pacific region, including Australia. Onshore lines are located primarily in Canada, the Lower 48, Alaska and Indonesia, while offshore subsea pipelines are mostly in the North Sea (U.K. and Norway), Indonesia and China.
On the North Slope of Alaska we have a complex system of pipelines that safely move oil from the wellhead to processing facilities and then into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system all the way to tankers in Valdez.
We adhere to all governmental standards and regulations regarding our pipelines. We put in place the necessary processes and procedures to manage risks and ensure that all employees and contractors comply fully with our Health, Safety and Environment and Asset and Operating Integrity programs. In the U.S., we also participate in the Dial Before You Dig program, which makes it easy for construction contractors to contact all pipeline and utility operators in an area at one time.
Our monitoring processes start with assessing how corrosive a given environment might be and determining the best methods for corrosion mitigation. ConocoPhillips labs also test the effectiveness of corrosion inhibitors. We also continue monitoring and inspecting the pipe to ensure we are using the right method.
We monitor some lines by flying or walking the route, and our operators monitor flow and pressure for any sign of integrity issues. On others, we use state-of-the-art technology to monitor, inspect and clean the pipelines. Our pipeline monitoring includes the dedicated efforts of our corrosion management team to find and fight corrosion. We use methods such as ultrasonic testing to measure changes in pipe wall in almost real time. We can detect changes within a week that might not show up otherwise for 3 to 6 months. This monitoring can help identify corrosion early and allows our operators to address it before a pipeline leak can occur.
While most of the world’s oil and natural gas move by pipeline and tanker, trucks still play an important role in how we transport crude oil and natural gas liquids.
For example, in the United States, some shale plays are located in remote areas, including the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas and the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, where there are fewer transportation options. Pipelines can take a long time to construct, so, many companies, like us, are opting to truck oil to existing established pipelines or rail facilities until connections at the gathering pipelines are established.
In those areas where we depend on trucks for our operations, we’re working with local officials and our communities to ensure safe operations, minimize risks and act responsibly.