Pipelines such as the proposed Keystone Pipeline are a common method for transporting oil to markets and refineries. In fact, we’ve been using them for decades. What you may not know is that the first pipelines were constructed long before the automobile was invented. There are tons of other interesting facts about pipelines that most of us probably don’t know; we’ve put together a brief list of cool facts about pipelines for your reading pleasure.
The First Pipeline
When we think about pipelines, we think about the modern steel behemoths we’re used to today, but the first pipelines were not made of steel. In fact, the first pipelines were constructed more than 2,500 years ago in ancient China. That culture was light years ahead of everyone else in those days and they used bamboo pipelines to extract oil from the ground for use in lamps and as lubricating materials. They likely had a few other uses for oil of which we’re not even aware – the ancient Chinese were very creative people.
Around the World with Pipelines
Since most of us don’t really come in contact with pipelines on a regular basis, we don’t really think about how many there are in North America alone. They’re actually quite prolific; if you were to lay all of the pipelines in North America together in one continuous structure, there would be enough pipe to circle the globe more than 20 times! That’s a lot of pipeline, which makes it even more amazing that most people have never actually seen one in real life. It’s definitely all around us, though.
Not Ground-Breaking Speeds
I’ve always pictured the oil rushing through pipelines at breakneck speeds to reach its destination, but that’s not the case at all. The oil actually travels along the pipeline at a leisurely pace from one end to the other. Typically, it moves about 3 to 6 miles per hour – that’s no more than the average speed a person walks. The reason the oil is designed to travel at such a slow pace is to reduce the risk of the pipes bursting due to pressure buildup. Don’t worry though – the steady pace still gets plenty of oil where it needs to go.
Cows and Gas
The environmental lobby is keen to point out how much damage the oil that flows through those pipelines is doing to the atmosphere once it’s eventually released from our cars. It’s true that the impact on the environment is significant, but oil and gas from man-made products are not the worst contributors to greenhouse gases. That honor goes to those harmless looking cows you see when you’re driving through the countryside on a Sunday afternoon. They actually emit more than 3 times the amount of gas into the atmosphere than the oil and gas industry does. That’s a lot of gas!