Pipeline Basics

Natural gas pipelines crisscross the United States, moving nearly a quarter of the nation’s energy from the well head to market. With the increase in natural gas production in the US, there is a need to build more pipeline capacity to deliver this new supply to end users. As a result, communities throughout the country are experiencing an increased level of natural gas pipeline development. As of the writing of this course (August 2016) about 3,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipeline are being proposed in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region in the US. Combined, the proposed projects would have the ability to move an additional 16.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day plus 120,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids out of the Appalachian basin. Most of these projects are expected to be completed and operational by 2018–2020. The maps below indicate the location of proposed ‘greenfield’ natural gas and natural gas liquid pipelines in the Eastern US. ‘Greenfield’ refers to new pipeline being proposed in newly acquired right-of-ways, as opposed to pipeline upgrades or expansion of existing systems.

Map indicating sights of proposed Greenfield pipeline project along the east coast of the U.S.
East Coast map of the proposed Greenfield Project with wells drilled
November 25, 2015 Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research
Map showing pipelines for the proposed Greenfiled project in Pennsylvania without wells
Map of Pennsylvania indicating proposed Greenfield pipeline projects.
November 25, 2015 Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research

Pipelines are generally buried underground, although they may have associated surface facilities such as valves, metering stations, pig launchers, pig receivers, or compressor stations. When studying proposed pipeline projects, it’s important to understand the benefits and associated costs that pipelines represent:

Penn State Extension
Natural Gas Pipeline Benefits Potential Impacts from Pipelines
Safe, cost effective transportation Environmental impacts during construction and operation

Energy and consumer products produced from natural gas

  • 63% of American homes used natural gas
  • 25% of electricity generation in the US is from natural gas
  • Feedstock for food products, pharmaceuticals, plastics and resins
Safety and human health concerns
Nearly 100% of natural gas consumed in US is transported via pipeline Impairment of viewsheds and landscape
  Negative impact to property values and future use of the land

Check Your Understanding

True or False: Pipeline upgrades or expansion of existing pipeline systems are referred to as "Greenfield" pipelines.

True
False


Click for answer.

False
“Greenfield” pipelines refers to new pipelines being proposed in newly acquired right-of-ways, as opposed to pipeline upgrades or expansion of existing systems.