Pipelines are everywhere

December 11, 2016

PATOKA, Ill. — Crude oil comes out of the ground hot, then stays warm for weeks as it travels at a casual walking pace — about 3 miles an hour — through the nation’s 2.5 million miles of oil pipeline, moving from well to refinery.

The drama over one stretch of one pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota caught the nation’s attention for months, until it ended in victory — for the protesters, for now — last week when the Army Corps of Engineers said it would not grant a right of way for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River near the Sioux land.

But focus on the episode ignores a greater truth — that our nation, which consumes more oil than any other, depends on these pipelines to slake its bottomless thirst. The Dakota Access Pipeline cost $3 billion and will be finished sometime next year, if not passing near the Sioux land, then passing by somewhere. It’s nearly 90 percent complete now.

Trace its route. The Dakota Access Pipeline, a 30-inch carbon-steel tube, begins in the oil fields of North Dakota, heads southeast for 1,172 miles, and ends here, in downstate Illinois, where its final stretch was laid last summer. It’s a muddy field, awaiting re-planting, next to land owned by Energy Transfer, the consortium building the disputed pipeline, piled with green pipe that will be used to construct the final 10 percent.

It’s not the only pipeline in the world. Here it is joined by pipelines arriving from New Orleans, from Pontiac, Michigan, from Owensboro, Kentucky, from Alberta, Canada via the Keystone Pipeline, also controversial. More than a dozen separate lines converge around Patoka, running underground, about 4 feet deep along U.S. 51 then turning down “pipeline alley” to feed what is known as the Patoka Oil Tank Farm. More than 50 enormous white oil tanks, each holding about 5 million gallons, or what the U.S. consumes every nine minutes. Various groupings of tanks are owned by the world’s major oil companies: Exxon/Mobil, Marathon, BP...

Read entire article at Chicago Sun Times.


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