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Inspection & Certification – Pipelines

Pipeline transport is the long-distance transportation of a liquid or gas through a system of pipes—a pipeline—typically to a market area for consumption. The latest data from 2014 gives a total of slightly less than 2,175,000 miles (3,500,000 km) of pipeline in 120 countries of the world. The United States had 65%, Russia had 8%, and Canada had 3%, thus 75% of all pipeline were in these three countries.

Pipeline and Gas Journal's worldwide survey figures indicate that 118,623 miles (190,905 km) of pipelines are planned and under construction. Of these, 88,976 miles (143,193 km) represent projects in the planning and design phase; 29,647 miles (47,712 km) reflect pipelines in various stages of construction. Liquids and gases are transported in pipelines and any chemically stable substance can be sent through a pipeline. Pipelines exist for the transport of crude and refined petroleum, fuels – such as oil, natural gas and biofuels – and other fluids including sewage, slurry, water, beer, hot water or steam for shorter distances. Pipelines are useful for transporting water for drinking or irrigation over long distances when it needs to move over hills, or where canals or channels are poor choices due to considerations of evaporation, pollution, or environmental impact.

Oil pipelines are made from steel or plastic tubes which are usually buried. The oil is moved through the pipelines by pump stations along the pipeline. Natural gas (and similar gaseous fuels) are pressurized into liquids known as Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs). Natural gas pipelines are constructed of carbon steel. Hydrogen pipeline transport is the transportation of hydrogen through a pipe. Pipelines are one of the safest ways of transporting materials as compared to road or rail, and hence in war, pipelines are often the target of military attacks.

Oil and natural gas

Natural gas (and similar gaseous fuels) are lightly pressurized into liquids known as Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs). Small NGL processing facilities can be located in oil fields so the butane and propane liquid under light pressure of 125 pounds per square inch (860 kPa), can be shipped by rail, truck or pipeline. Propane can be used as a fuel in oil fields to heat various facilities used by the oil drillers or equipment and trucks used in the oil patch. EG: Propane will convert from a gas to a liquid under light pressure, 100 psi, give or take depending on temperature, and is pumped into cars and trucks at less than 125 psi (860 kPa) at retail stations. Pipelines and rail cars use about double that pressure to pump at 250 psi (1,700 kPa).

The distance to ship propane to markets is much shorter, as thousands of natural-gas processing plants are located in or near oil fields. Many Bakken Basin oil companies in North Dakota, Montana, Manitoba and Saskatchewan gas fields separate the NGLs in the field, allowing the drillers to sell propane directly to small wholesalers, eliminating the large refinery control of product and prices for propane or butane.

The most recent major pipeline to start operating in North America, is a TransCanada natural gas line going north across the Niagara region bridges with Marcellus shale gas from Pennsylvania and others tied in methane or natural gas sources, into the Canadian province of Ontario as of the fall of 2012, supplying 16 percent of all the natural gas used in Ontario.

Although pipelines can be built under the sea, that process is economically and technically demanding, so the majority of oil at sea is transported by tanker ships. Similarly, it is often more economically feasible to transport natural gas in the form of LNG, however the break-even point between LNG and pipelines would depend on the volume of natural gas and the distance it travels.

The Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline is proposed to transfer valuable oil from Western North Dakota through northwestern Minnesota. The pipeline will be 24-30 inches in diameter. It will carry over 300,000 barrels of oil a day with a volatility of 32.


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