Pipelines In Your Community

A network of more than two million miles of pipeline ranging in diameter from less than an inch to more than 40 inches, safely transports a variety of gases and liquids across the country.  Pipelines transport more than 43 different gas and liquid products including natural gas, crude oil, gasoline, propane and ethanol.

There are three primary types of pipelines:

  • Gathering pipelines transport crude oil and natural gas from the wellheads and production facility to processing facilities where the oil, gas and water are separated and processed.
  • Transmission pipelines move refined liquid products, crude oil and natural gas from refineries to marketing and distribution terminals typically using larger diameter, high-pressure lines.  Compressor stations and pumping stations are located along transmission and gathering routes to help push products through the line.
  • Distribution systems for liquid and gas products vary. Liquid products are stored and transported by tanker trucks to their final destination.  Gases, such as natural gas, butane, propane and ethane are transported from a storage location directly to residential and industrial customers through low-pressure distribution pipelines.

permanent Pipeline Markers

Operators place signs and markers along the pipeline route to identify the general location of a pipeline and specify the type of product transported, the operator’s name and an emergency contact number.  Pipeline markers do not identify the exact location of a pipeline and should not be used to locate pipelines prior to excavation.

If you are responding to a 911 call about a strange odor or leak, find a pipeline marker or sign to identify the pipeline product and operator.

pipeline Rights-of-way

Although typically buried underground, pipelines may also be found aboveground in extremely cold and harsh environments and at pump and compressor stations, valve stations and terminals. Whether aboveground or belowground, gathering and transmission pipelines are constructed along a clear corridor of land called the right-of-way. The right-of-way may contain one or more pipelines, may vary in width, and will cross through public and private property. The right-of-way should be free of permanent structures and trees and be identified with a marker sign.

pipeline control center

Call the pipeline operator whenever you have questions, concerns or an emergency.  In particular, immediately contact the pipeline operator if:

  • You need detailed pipeline information
  • You suspect a pipeline leak (Review the “Recognize & Respond to a Pipeline Emergency” page)
  • You notice anything abnormal in the vicinity of a pipeline
  • You notice unauthorized excavation near a pipeline

Emergency contact information is listed on permanent pipeline markers and may also be included in your emergency contact list.  When you call the 24-hour emergency phone number, you will speak with someone at the pipeline operator’s control center.

The control center is the heart of pipeline operations. Information about the pipeline’s operating equipment and parameters is constantly communicated to the control center where personnel use computers to monitor pipeline pressure, temperature, flow, alarms, and other conditions in the pipeline.

In the event of an emergency, the control center may be able to shutdown the pipeline and isolate the
source of the leak. The pipeline operator’s control center may also have the capability to remotely open and close valves and transfer products both to and from the main pipeline at marketing and distribution facilities.

Pipeline Maps

The federal government provides online maps to help you  locate pipelines in or near your community through the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS).  Maps generated by NPMS show the approximate location of gas and hazardous liquids transmission pipelines in relation to specific addresses, major roads, zip codes, cities and counties.

You can also use NPMS to access contact information for transmission pipeline operators in your community.  Operator contact information can be sorted by state, county or zip code and typically includes the operator’s name, product transported, contact name and phone number.  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) manages NPMS.

Currently, NPMS does not include gathering or distribution pipelines.  Some states regulatory agencies  also provide maps showing the general location of pipelines in their state.  Call 811 or your local One-Call center to  have  gathering or distribution lines located and marked before digging.

Learn more about the types of pipelines that make up our nation’s pipeline infrastructure.

Watch a short video to learn more about NPMS.