Petroleum Pipeline

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Petroleum Pipeline


a complex of structures for transporting petroleum and petroleum products from the place of extraction or production to points of use or transfer to rail or water transportation. A pipeline consists of underground and underwater pipes, fittings, head and booster pumping stations, petroleum tanks, and line and auxiliary structures.

Main or trunk pipelines are used to transport oil and petroleum products over considerable distances, often 2,000 km or more. The diameter of trunk lines is 200–1,220 mm, and the pressure is usually 5–6 meganewtons per sq cm (50–60 kilograms-force per sq cm). Gathering lines are used to transport petroleum from oil fields to the heads of the trunk lines and petroleum products from refineries to the heads of products pipelines; they may be up to several dozen kilometers long. Oil-field gathering lines and refinery and bulk plant pipelines are designed for internal transfers.

The main parameters of a trunk pipeline are length, capacity, diameter, pressure, and number of pumping stations. The first two parameters are specified, and the rest are determined by calculation. Carbon and low-alloy steel pipes, mainly welded with longitudinal and spiral seams, are used in oil pipeline construction. The viscosity and density of the petroleum and petroleum products to be pumped are very important in the design of trunk lines. The pipes are protected from soil corrosion and stray currents by means of anticorrosion insulation and electrochemical protection methods (cathode protection, electrically polarized protectors, electrodrainage). Line-cutting gate valves are installed along the entire length of the pipeline. The distance between gate valves depends on the nature of the terrain but usually does not exceed 20 km. When pumping high-viscosity and highly congealed oil, the oil is heated at the pumping stations and intermediate preheating points. The construction cost of trunk pipelines is repaid over relatively short periods (usually two to three years).

The first petroleum pipeline, which was 6 km long, was built in the USA in 1865. Construction of longer pipelines in the USA began in 1875. The first petroleum pipeline in Russia was laid in 1878 in Baku, from the oil fields to the refinery. The 835-km, 200-mm Baku-Batumi products trunk line (with 16 pumping stations), which was once the longest line in the world and is still in use today, was designed by V. G. Shukhov and built in the period from 1897 to 1907.

The development of pipeline transportation in the USSR is associated with the completion of the oil fields in the Bashkir ASSR, the Tatar ASSR, and Kuibyshev Oblast of the RSFSR. In 1941, 4, 100 km of trunk pipelines for petroleum and petroleum products, with a total annual capacity of 7.9 million tons, were in operation. The maximum diameter was 300 mm. The total length of the trunk lines increased to 11,500 km in 1956 and 29,000 km in 1966.

The present trunk-line network was developed in three main directions: Ural-Siberian (Al’met’evsk-Ufa-Omsk-Novosibirsk-Irkutsk), 8,527 km long (petroleum and petroleum-products pipelines); northwestern (Al’met’evsk-Gorky-Yaroslavl-Kirishi, with a branch to Riazan’ and Moscow), more than 1,700 km long; and southwestern (from Al’met’evsk to Kuibyshev and farther via the Druzhba [Friendship] Pipeline, with a branch to Polotsk and Ventspils), more than 3,500 km long. With the discovery of new oil deposits in the southern Mangyshlak Peninsula and in Tiumen’ Oblast, unique pipelines were built: the Uzen’-Gur’ev-Kuibyshev line, 1,500 km long, with a diameter of 1,020 mm, for pumping the high-viscosity and highly congealing Mangyshlak oil, with en-route heating (a “hot” pipeline); the Ust’-Balyk-Omsk line, 1,000 km long, with a diameter of 1,020 mm; the Shaim-Tiumen’ and Aleksandrovskoe-Anzhero-Su-dzhensk lines, 1,220 mm in diameter, with a total length of 840 km; the. Ust’-Balyk-Kurgan-Ufa-Al’met’evsk line, 1,220 mm in diameter and a total length of 1,844 km, and the second Friendship Pipeline. The total length of petroleum pipelines in the USSR in 1973 was 42,900 km. A characteristic feature of the development of petroleum pipeline transportation in the USSR is the increase in the proportion of large-diameter pipelines (see Table 1).

Table 1. Types of pipelines in the USSR (as of June 1, 1973)
Diameter (mm)Length (km)
up to 2001,485

In developing countries and developed capitalist countries, petroleum pipelines are also a major large-volume method of transporting petroleum and petroleum products. First place is occupied by the USA, whose trunk pipeline network is about 70 percent of the total length of pipelines of the capitalist countries. Of the total length of oil pipelines in the USA, pipes 100–500 mm in diameter account for more than 50 percent, and pipes 900 mm or more in diameter account for 10—12 percent. The first 1,000 mm trunk pipeline in the USA, from New Orleans (St. James) to Patoka (1,012 km long), was built in 1968. Work was begun in 1974 on the construction of a 1,220-mm pipeline for transporting oil over a distance of 1,260 km from the Prudhoe Bay deposits off the coast of Alaska (discovered in 1968) to the city of Valdez.

Table 2. Major petroleum pipeline systems in the USA
 Length (km)
Service Pipeline22,680
Humble Pipeline18,900
Colonial Pipeline4,680
Magnolia Pipeline19,500
Buckeye Pipeline12,800
Sinclair Pipeline15,300

The principal petroleum trunk lines and pipelines operating in the USA are owned by the major petroleum monopolies, which control about 90 percent of the pipeline length and 70 percent of the volume of petroleum and petroleum products transported via pipeline. The largest pipeline systems have been built in the USA. Pipeline construction in other capitalist countries was begun much later. In Western Europe, the 152-km Vado Ligure-Trecate pipeline was built in 1952; Paris-Le Havre (243 km) in 1953; Lavera-Karlsruhe (780 km) in 1963; and Genoa-Ingolstadt (536 km) in 1964. The greatest total pipeline lengths are 270,000 km in North America; 23,590 km in South America (including the Caribbean area); 17,820 km in Western Europe; 22,800 km in the Near and Middle East; 15,340 km in Africa; and 8,870 km in the Far East and Oceania. The total length of petroleum pipelines in the developed capitalist countries and the developing countries (1972) is shown in Tables 2 and 3.

The advancement of petroleum pipelines takes place mainly through an increase in pipe diameter and improvements in pipe quality. Pipes with diameters of 900–1,000 mm or more are regarded as the most economical. The main emphasis in pipeline operation is placed on increasing flow rates through the introduction of new intermediate pumping stations and expansion and modernization of existing facilities. In addition, existing systems are expanded by laying second pipelines alongside the first and by increasing the capacity of pumping stations.


Iablonskii, V. S., and V. D. Belousov. Proektirovanie neftegazoprovodov. Moscow, 1959.
Popov, S. S. Transport nefti, nefteproduktov i gaza, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1960.
Table 3. Petroleum pipelines in developed capitalist countries (except USA) and developing countries
CountryLength (km)
Canada ..........20,600
Mexico ..........9,500
Argentina ..........6,550
Bolivia ..........3,490
Brazil ..........2,370
Colombia ..........4,450
Venezuela ..........4,970
Austria ..........640
France ..........3,860
Great Britain ..........2,360
Italy ..........4,060
Netherlands ..........1,250
Spain ..........2,070
West Germany ..........3,130
Bahrain ..........200
Iran ..........3,530
Iraq ..........5,650
Israel ..........780
Kuwait ..........850
Neutral Zone ..........220
Qatar ..........420
Saudi Arabia ..........3,850
Syria ..........1,180
Turkey ..........2,240
Algeria ..........4,690
Arab Republic of Egypt ..........430
Libya ..........3,050
Nigeria ..........830
Republic of South Africa ..........2,240
Southern Rhodesia and Mozambique ..........830
Tunisia ..........740
Australia ..........1,280
Burma ..........480
India ..........3,930
Indonesia ..........1,860
Japan ..........860
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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