Problems and Pluses of Pipelines


By Isaac Cooper, Staff Writer

If you rely on a plane, train, automobile or anything that requires a gas station to get you from place to place, then you rely on pipeline systems.

These systems are large tubes that stretch across the United States that transport oil from digging areas to refining mills that turn that oil into usable gas.  They are the most advanced mode of large scale oil transportation.  Along these lines, there are branching sublines that are placed at different spots on the mainline where oil can then be distributed and refined.

Some of the companies that build these pipelines include Energy Transfer partners and the Colonial Pipeline company.  These companies are responsible for the construction of the Colonial Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline, two major interstate pipelines.

Colonial Pipeline

The Colonial Pipeline was built by the Colonial Pipeline company.  The system starts in Houston, Texas and ends in the New York Harbor.  The pipeline cuts across Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia and many other states.

“It’s a very efficient piece of our country’s infrastructure,” Texas native and sophomore Neely Kassanoff said.  “It has increased the quality of life for so many Americans who don’t live near an abundance of oil.”

The system transports 100 million gallons of oil every day to the east coast and along the southeastern U.S.  Despite being a very advanced piece of technology, it comes with its problems.

One problem with this system is that it has leaked.  On September 9, a leak on this system led to 336,000 gallons of oil being lost.

Also, an explosion occurred on a subline in Shelby county, Alabama on Halloween.  The explosion led to one death and many people injured.  On top of these misfortunes, oil transportation had stopped for six days which resulted in a short period of gas prices increasing and gas shortages.

“This [explosion] is just more proof that this isn’t a sustainable path we’re taking on energy,” junior Callie Stanek said.

Dakota Access Pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a project approved by the Army Corps of Engineers this past June.  Dakota Access LLC, a daughter company of Energy Transfer Partners, is in charge of the construction of this system.  

The project is creating eight to twelve thousand manufacturing jobs and once finished, will be able to transport 470 to 570 thousand barrels worth of oil from the Bakken and Three Forks sites in North Dakota to refining mills in Patoka, Illinois.

The system will run through the Dakotas and Iowa before ending in Patoka.  That makes the system 1,172 miles long and will cost $3.7 billion according to the Energy Transfer Partners.

Like the Colonial pipeline, the Dakota pipeline is surrounded in its own swirl of controversy.  The problem with the DAPL is that it runs through Native American lands.

“I’m super opposed to the pipeline in general,” MacAlester student Isabel Lê.  “[I think that] they looked for a group of people who couldn’t protect themselves.”

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been protesting the DAPL since 2014, when the project was originally proposed.  The tribe has been holding peaceful protests around their land where the system would go until October 27, when police removed them from the area.

“I think that people have the right to protest,” sophomore Helena Jolly said.  “It is sacred Native American land…I also think if the protesters were doing so [protesting] peacefully, then the police shouldn’t have used any acts of force while maintaining the situation.”

The Future of Pipelines

According to the Energy Transfer Partners, the U.S is the top consumer of oil, but the third largest producer of it.  

One reason Energy Transfer Partners wants to complete the DAPL is to make the U.S completely energy independent.

The construction of these pipelines creates jobs and fuels the vehicles that are needed to travel.  However, these things come with a cost of deteriorating the planet.

Photo from TIME