November 8, 2016 – Forbes
The Problem With Pipelines: Colonial Pipeline And America's Fuel Transportation Networks
By: Rusty Braziel (for Forbes)
Two recent incidents that each interrupted gasoline flows from Gulf Coast refineries to the Southeast and East Coast provide stark reminders of the importance––and the vulnerability––of the nation’s energy delivery infrastructure.
The U.S. economy relies on ready access to huge volumes of crude oil, natural gas, propane, and refined products like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel that are delivered each day, mostly by pipeline but also using railroads, ships, barges and trucks. We all benefit from this efficient delivery network every time we fill up our cars with gasoline, adjust our thermostats, or crank up the backyard BBQ grill. Of course, things run smoothly only when we have the right infrastructure in the right places, and when those delivery systems function as intended – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Both the vulnerability and the resilience of this energy delivery network have been illustrated by the two recent incidents on Colonial Pipeline, the latter of which resulted in the tragic death of a pipeline worker in Alabama on October 31. Colonial is the largest petroleum product pipeline system in the country. It runs continuously at or near full capacity, delivering about 2.6 million barrels per day via a 5,500-mile system that connects 29 refineries and 267 distribution terminals, moving petroleum products like gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and heating oil from receipt points as far west as Houston, Texas to numerous delivery points between Louisiana and northern New Jersey. To put Colonial’s throughput number in perspective…