Why People Rely on Pipelines

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline system’s 420 miles above ground segments are built in a zig-zag configuration to allow for expansion or contraction of the pipe.

In their near-religious belief about demonic CO2, activists are obstructing construction or expansion of pipelines delivering the energy undergirding our civilization.  The story is explained by James Conca in a recent Forbes article Supersize It! Building Bigger Pipelines Over Old Ones Is A Good Idea Excerpts below with my bolds.

The idea of replacing an older small pipe with a wider new pipe is not new. But it really makes a difference when applied to the oil and natural gas pipelines that crisscross North America.

The concept of supersizing pipelines is taking hold in the United States and Canada to address the growing dearth of pipelines in areas where oil production is increasing but can’t get to the refineries in the Gulf.

At the same time, natural gas use is increasing in places that don’t have many pipelines and where the public is strongly against building new pipelines.

A bigger pipeline along the same route as the older smaller one is cheaper to build than a bunch of new small ones. It also falls under the existing permits and rights-of-way of the old pipe. And the public doesn’t have to approve any new pipeline routes.

Supersizing also increases safety and ensures less environmental impact since you’re not building additional lines, but replacing an old one with a new one, and older lines are more likely to leak or fail completely, like the Colonial Pipeline Spill.

Not only do we need more crude oil pipelines, the ones we have quite old. But they can be supersized without finding and permitting new routes, which saves a lot of money and time and doesn’t increase their environmental footprint. Of course, if there are no pipelines to supersize, like in much of New England and New York, that’s a whole other problem. Photo is of a section of the Alaska Pipeline.

Increasing the diameter of a pipe increases the flow within it much more than you might think. In fact, the volume of flow per minute goes as the fourth power of the change in diameter. This means, if you double the diameter, you increase the flow by 16 times – (2^4 = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 16).

Enbridge is a good example. The company has replaced a 26-inch-diameter shale gas line running from Pennsylvania into New England with a 42-inch line. That doesn’t seem like much, it’s only 1.6 times as big. But raised to the power of four, this new pipeline can carry six times as much gas as the old one.

‘Once the pipe is in the ground, you can do a lot of things: reverse flows, expand it, optimize it,’ said Al Monaco, President and Chief Executive of Enbridge.

These types of upgrades have essentially made the controversial portion of the Keystone XL pipeline unnecessary.

Of course, if you don’t have old pipelines to begin with, supersizing doesn’t help. Parts of the U.S. simply need more pipelines, especially where fracking has unleashed huge amounts of oil and gas in areas that didn’t have a lot pipelines to begin with.

New England is a good example.

New England is closing their nuclear plants faster than you can say “who cares about science.” They are replacing them with natural gas and renewables. But there are hardly any gas pipelines in the region. They are forced to import liquefied natural gas from places like Russia or use dirty oil plants when demand is high, like this last winter. When this happens the customers in New England pay a high price for their electricity, sometimes ten times the normal price.

Yet, the people of New England do not want more gas pipelines.

The citizens of New England also want more renewables, whose electricity has to be imported into the northeast from other regions, especially hydropower from Canada. But this requires installing high voltage transmission lines which the public keeps voting down.

When the public does not listen to scientists and experts, things don’t go well. This problem is engulfing the energy sector. The public seems to care about climate change, but don’t want to do what the climate scientists advise – to increase nuclear and renewables – because they reject them, or their infrastructure requirements, out of ignorance.

And they aren’t putting solar panels on their roofs very much either.

So next year, they will wonder why electricity costs keep going up, their carbon emissions keep going up, and their black-outs keep getting longer.

Natural gas requires the least steel and concrete of any energy source, is cheap and quick to build, has cheap fuel, and is beloved by state legislatures. But you need pipelines to deliver it, and no one wants them in their backyard. Supersizing helps with this problem.

Natural gas is the fastest growing energy source in America. Replacing coal plants with gas plants is the only reason our carbon emissions are at a 27-year low. It’s the easiest power plant to build, requires the least amount of steel and concrete (see figure above), is the easiest to permit, will have cheap fuel for decades, and is vastly preferred over coal.

However, it requires pipelines to deliver the gas and no one seems to like them. You can ship gas as liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is what happens a lot in the New England, but that’s three times more expensive and we have very limited LNG facilities.

This is a classic case of the public misunderstanding how the real world works. These issues are somewhat complex and you have to juggle a lot of conflicting issues. Our oil pipelines themselves are generally old (see figure above). Half of them are older than 40 years. Some date from before World War One.

They need to be replaced, and new ones built, or we risk the very environmental damage feared by those who don’t want them at all. Just supersizing the oldest half would be tremendous, and remove most of the need for additional pipelines.

Our pipelines, refineries and transmission lines are all at capacity. When problems occur, there’s no back-up plan. We have over 3,000 blackouts a year, the highest in the developed world. It’s why the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America a D+ on our 2017 Infrastructure Report Card.

Somewhere around 1985, we became the world’s richest, most powerful, greatest nation in the history of the world. But we still have to work hard to remain the best. It doesn’t just maintain itself. And infrastructure is where long-term neglect first shows, often catastrophically.

So we need to upgrade our transmission lines and transformers, build new non-fossil power plants and supersize our pipelines.

We can’t afford not to.

Dr. James Conca is an expert on energy, nuclear and dirty bombs, a planetary geologist, and a professional speaker.

Footnote:

Dr. Conca is writing from an American perspective, while in Canada a major pipeline supersizing project is being resisted by one province, British Columbia, despite the pipeline gaining federal approval after a long, tortuous environmental assessment process.

The BC Premier is holding power in a coalition government beholden to a few Greens, who are adamant about “keeping it in the ground.”

Latest news at The many ways B.C. Premier John Horgan is wrong about Trans Mountain.

“The current developments are a real test of Canada’s commitment to the rule of law and the ability of any resource company to rely on the legal approval process for projects,” said Dwight Newman, one of Canada’s top constitutional scholars and Munk senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

To diminish the importance to Alberta and Canada of the Trans Mountain project, Horgan refers to it as a Texas project, adopting the pejorative jargon of eco-activists dependent on U.S. funding and organizational support to run their campaigns.

“The interest of the Texas boardrooms are not the interests of British Columbians,” Horgan said. In fact, Kinder Morgan Canada has been publicly traded since last year and is 77-per-cent owned by Canadians, with Manulife and TD the biggest shareholders. Its shippers are predominantly Canadian oilsands producers and Canada as a whole benefits from the pipeline’s opening of the Asian market.

Horgan’s actions have already triggered a trade war with Alberta, fomented irrational fears about oil spills, put the spotlight on B.C. for all the wrong reasons, and exposed his province to potentially hard retribution from both from Alberta and from Ottawa. If Horgan doesn’t see that, he’s not looking.

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4 comments

  1. oiltranslator · April 12

    Yes the econazis are dangerous health hazards. But they learned the techniques from religious bigots inventing pseudoscience to demonize marijuana and LSD, then sending police to shoot, conscript and jail harmless kids, loot assets and wreck the economy. Shutting off energy so that looters may have their way with disarmed mystical bigots is no less cruel, but appeals hugely to a sense of schadenfreude and just retribution. Giving up the initiation of force solves retaliation problems.

    Like

    • Ron Clutz · April 12

      oil, you assume too much. As the article says, the mob doesn’t want or expect to freeze in the dark for lack of energy. They just don’t think about the consequences from their resisting to enrgy infrastructure.

      Like

  2. Hifast · April 17

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

    Like

  3. Taylor Bishop · 24 Days Ago

    Thanks for the interesting read about pipelines. I didn’t know that places are supersizing pipelines where oil production is increasing. i’m kind of interested to learn what materials these pipes should be made out of to transport the oil safety.

    Like

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