America is enjoying the benefits of an unprecedented development of oil and natural gas resources in many parts of the country. We will soon be the largest oil producer in the world, and one of the top producers of natural gas – accomplishments that many would have never predicted. The result has been incredible job creation, lower energy costs and the need to build and support methods of transportation to move these vast supplies of energy resources.
Today, both pipeline and rail are needed to transport these energy resources as they play different roles and offer inherently different benefits to move the product. For those seeking to move crude oil, rail is able to deliver the product to markets that are currently not served by pipelines or where capacity is constrained. California has historically depended on foreign oil sources or refineries in the north requiring rail transportation. A benefit of rail is that it can be diverted to market centers that offer the highest price to producers seeking to sell their product even when the cost of transporting the product via rail is more expensive.
The cost of building pipelines is substantial and can take several years to complete depending on the size and scope of the project. Currently, significant investments are being made to serve existing rail systems and existing pipelines. The end result will produce a more seamless and flexible transportation network designed to help meet America’s energy needs.
Pipelines play a critical role as they remain the only way to transport natural gas economically and efficiently. Natural gas cannot be compressed and shipped by rail in an efficient manner that permits large-scale volumes of the commodity to be liquefied and then returned to its gaseous state once it arrives at a distribution point. Current pipeline infrastructure also serves as a primary way most crude oil is transported each day.
As the energy renaissance continues in America, it is clear that both pipelines and rail will play a critical role in transporting energy resources.
2.6 million miles of pipeline in the United States
Source: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
300,000 miles of railroad track serving freight and passenger transportation
Source: The U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
To learn more about pipeline and rail safety, visit the following websites:
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) – www.phmsa.dot.gov
U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration – www.fra.dot.gov