Monday, July 23, 2007

The Business of Pipelines

In many cases, pipeline companies do not actually own the products they are transporting. The oil or natural gas that is pumping through miles of their piping interstate is actually owned by producers or shippers. These companies pay pipeline corporations to transport their product from the oil rigs to the refineries, manufacturers, and distribution centers. Similar to the trucking and train transportation systems, pipelines are an invaluable intermediary, and a very profitable business.
The FERC, or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, regulates the fees charged by common carrier interstate pipeline companies. Some states also have regulatory commissions that control the costs of intrastate pipeline transportation. Within these guidelines, shippers engage in a nomination process in order to reserve a specific volume on the pipeline transport. Shippers must also meet the product safety specifications in order to utilize pipeline transportation.
By transporting in batches, many liquid fuel pipelines can ship several different types of liquid petroleum. Batches are transported with scheduling system that describes when the product was shipped, how much, and where it was shipped to and from. The product is measured at the receipt point as well as upon delivery in order to properly document the amount that was transported. The customer (or shipper) is charged according to the amount transported, the distance transported, and the number of delivery points. The process is very similar to the Postal Service. Once a carrier is confirmed, the amount to be shipped is accounted for, and a fee is determined. However, when something causes a delay or unexpected delivery change, tracking down a specific quantity of oil or natural gas can be much more complicated than located a letter or package. There is still most definitely a paper trail to follow, but batches of liquids often continue directly to a customer may even be used before it can be found, depending on the pipeline system and final destination.
The United States has the most complex and vast pipeline system in the world and distributes liquid and gas fuels to millions of customers every day. Pipeline transportation is vital player in the fuel economy, providing America with the standard of living it enjoys. Although there are regulations controlling the fees and profits collected by pipeline companies, it remains a business that is increasingly in need as civilization progresses. Even if there is a shift if fuel source, pipelines companies will continue to thrive, transporting whatever liquid or gas is necessary for the people producing it to the people who use it.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp is a successful, private independent producer of oil and natural gas.

The Causes of Natural Gas Accidents

Digging near existing Natural Gas pipelines is the number one cause of accidents, whether involving transmission or distribution systems. A waiting period of 48 hours is generally necessary to allow time for the gas company to mark the location of the pipeline, and many accidents occur due to excavation without consulting the pipeline company or impatience regarding the waiting period. Almost 3/5 of all reported pipeline incidents from 1995 to 2004 were due to digging or excavation damage, according to the US Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety. The remaining portion of accidents had other causes such as fire, above ground damage by a motor vehicle, or corrosion.
Corrosion is also commonly caused by excavation damage, making it more susceptible to rust and deterioration. One third of all natural gas leakage incidents were caused by excavation in 2004, and the number continues to climb as population and construction increases. Any destruction to a pipeline system from the outside is considered excavation damage, and these incidents are far more likely in residential or high population densities. Though this is a logical statistic, contacting the pipeline company and waiting to determine the route of the pipe could have prevented each of these incidents.
Fire and explosion, a minority cause of pipeline accidents, accounted for 26 of the 77 incidents in 2004. These most commonly occur on the premises of a factory or refinery, and are usually well contained. Vehicular damage to above ground natural gas units accounted for 12 accidents in 2004, and corrosion only caused three. Though these causes combined make up a sizable percentage of the small number of pipeline accidents, pipeline companies are constantly striving to eliminate these causes and have some authority to do so. Excavation damage, however, is much more difficult to control.
Taking into account all of these incidents and their causes, pipeline disasters are extremely rare. Pipelines continue to be an extremely safe way to transport natural gas. With over two million miles of pipeline laid throughout the United States, providing natural gas to almost 70 million residents, power plants, and businesses, the safety statistics are astounding. Compared to the damage incurred by the automobile industry, pipelines are extremely safe. Both regulations by the FERC and interests of private drilling and transportation companies, like the Western Pipeline Corporation, continue to strive for perfection in eliminating all natural gas accidents, but the cooperation of the public and private sectors to prevent excavation damage is vital to this kind of success.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp is a successful, private independent producer of oil and natural gas.

Environmental Effects of Natural Gas

As already experienced by western European cities, switching to natural gas rather than coal will impact the environment positively. Natural gas and low-sulpher oils for household heating is already improving environmental conditions by reducing the impact on landscape from coal mining, pollution created from coal treatment, and ash storage. Eastern European countries still using Lignite, a low-grade brown coal, experience high emissions of sulphur oxides, carbon, nitrogen, and hydrocarbons, and heavy metals, which are non-existent or greatly reduced with natural gas. With a perspective of environmental protection, the positives of natural gas that Western Europeans are already witnessing can make a global environmental impact in comparison to other fossil fuels.
The United States already has the largest network of natural gas pipelines in the world, established by several hundred pipeline companies like El Paso Pipeline, Chevron, and Western Pipeline Corporation, but our coal energy usage is currently far greater. Both coal and natural gas are not considered renewable resources, but coal is far worse for the environment both in transport and when burned. Natural gas pipelines are buried beneath the ground surrounded by a protective coating as well as a myriad of government regulations. Once a pipe is buried it has zero landscape impact. The only substantial impact of natural gas is produced when customers actually use the product. Even at this time, however, the benefits of natural gas far outweigh those of other fossil fuels. Natural gas produces very low, even negligible quantities of sulphur dioxide and particulates. The levels of hydrocarbons and monoxide are also much lower.
The only negative to natural gas usage is the production of nitrogen oxides, which are produced by every fuel that goes through the combustion process. Even this emission is less harmful than those emitted by other fossil fuels because there are no nitrogenous substances present in natural gas. The nitrogen oxides produced in natural gas combustion can only form from atmospheric nitrogen and is variable according to the combustion process. Manufacturers can actually reduce this emission by devising new combustion chambers and burner designs. These inventive improvements to the combustion of natural gas have already reduced the emission of nitrogen oxides by 10%.
Of course the most common emission among all fossil fuels is carbon dioxide, which has been designated by many scientists to be a primary contributor to global warming. Natural gas is no exception to carbon emission, but it is unchallenged in levels of emissions in comparison to any other fuel source, with almost 50% less CO2 emission than solid fuels and 35% less than liquid fuels.
In an age where the human race is avidly considering the source of future energy and its impact on the global environment, natural gas will be a fundamental player in greatly reducing the impact of fuel while continuing to accommodate the need for energy on a massive level.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp is a successful, private independent producer of oil and natural gas.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Pipelines and Landowners

Establishing the route of a pipeline is an exhaustive process littered with regulations and standards to insure safety as well as the assets of property owners. The process of acquiring a pipeline "right of way" on private property is somewhat lengthy itself, but provides property owners with adequate compensation for the use of their lands.
If a pipeline company desires a right of way on a landowner's property, they must negotiate to secure those rights. A negotiation of this sort will cover every part of pipeline insertion, from access to the land to restoring the land to its original state. However, before any negotiations of payment begin, a pipeline representative will first ask permission to inspect the property. The land must be surveyed to finalize proposed routes. A settlement between the pipeline company, such as the Western Pipeline Corporation, and the landowner can then be reached. The land that will be temporarily affected will obviously be a long and narrow strip, wider than the pipeline itself but varying depending on the change in elevation and geology of the land. It is important for landowners to understand the entire scope of the project to better understand their role, so in areas of a new route proposal, the FERC usually conducts informational meetings to help landowners understand the process.
Due to the Federal natural Gas Act, pipeline companies have eminent domain to build pipelines on private property. It is wise for landowners to negotiate a nice profit rather than fight the project because the federal power of eminent domain will surely prevail. However, pipeline companies prefer not to use this right in order to keep friendly relationships with landowners, so property owners should consider how to benefit from this opportunity. Some farmers and ranchers worry that a pipeline will ruin a section of their land that might otherwise be profitable, but the great thing about pipeline constructions is that it is only a temporary disturbance. It is the goal of all pipeline crews to restore the land to its original appearance, and crops will not be affected. Safety markers placed at intersections with roads and railroads and any other necessary location will be the only noticeable change. Crop growing and grazing may resume immediately following the project, and the loss of profits of the time of construction can be included as part of the "right of way" negotiation. However, future planting of trees or construction will be prohibited in certain proximity to the pipeline for obvious reasons. Pipeline companies will need to maintain and service the pipelines to keep them in working order, so they cannot be completely covered by something else, nor would it be safe. It is the responsibility of the pipeline company to keep the area cleared for maintenance access.
The pipeline "right of way" regulations are designed to insure the growth of our nations natural gas transportation as well as protect the rights of individual landowners. The government as well as private pipeline companies seek the full cooperation of landowners and are prepared to compensate accordingly.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp is a successful, private independent producer of oil and natural gas.

Oil Rig Dangers

Oil Rig Operations

Oil rigs operate 24 hours a day, and are usually crewed by 3 or 4 teams who trade off shifts. Each team is comprised of a Rig Manager, Driller, Derrickhand, Motorhand, and Several Roughnecks and Rustabouts. Work is performed in shifts usually 12 hours on, 12 hours off. Fatigue, and the extreme conditions often lead to injuries.

The Dangers

Oil rig operations are considered high risk work. Examples of dangers include high falls, burns, back injury, fingers arms and legs getting caught in spinning machinery, exposure to extreme temperatures, chemicals, and gases, and explosions. Sadly one of the most common types of accidents occurs when a floor opening is removed and unattended, often it is the same person who removed the opening that later forgets about it and falls through when passing at a later time. Hydrogen Sulfide, or sour gas, is a highly combustible gas found around oil drilling operations which can cause loss of consciousness within seconds of exposure. Pulling a lever for too long might mean dropping heavy machinery on co-workers above.

The Response

With theses ever-present danger it is a wonder anyone could make it off an oil rig alive. Even if an injury doesn’t result in death it is usually seriously debilitating, and may prevent workers from returning to work, or even earning a living in other industries. However, with the right precautions, and quality management some oil rigs are able to operate nearly accident free. Many of the duties of roughnecks, and rustabouts include keeping the worksite clean and clear of hazards, and performing maintenance as simple as removing rust, which could prevent catastrophic mechanical failures. Ultimately the Rig Manager, and Driller are responsible to insure their crews are properly trained, and aware of the hazards present, and to enforce proper employment of safety measures. One company has had success using video games in training. The idea is that a worker who loses an arm or two in a virtual world will be more prepared to make the right decisions in the real world.

When Injuries do Occur

Regardless of the intense focus on training, and implementation of safety equipment and regulations, the occasional accident may still occur. It is important for companies like Western Pipeline Corporation to assist the employee in recovery and treatment as much as possible. Law firms who specialize in the field frequently win multi-million dollars cash awards for their clients. Not only does the company stand to lose a lot more money, they possibly lose the return of a quality employee.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp is a successful, private independent producer of oil and natural gas.

New Pipeline Technology

Innovations in drilling and transporting technology for fossil fuels are what make the necessary reserves possible. Some off shore rigs drill ocean floor that is one to two miles beneath the surface of the water. This would obviously not be possible without the ingenuity of modern man. Not only does new technology make drilling like this possible, but it also produces more fossil fuels out of every location by that might not otherwise be reachable. Pipeline innovations for transport are just as vital to the industry by making the transportation process more profitable and efficient.
A device known as the Smart Interrupter, designed for radio detection has been designed to monitor the effectiveness of cathodic pipeline protection. This interpreter is a solid state interrupter used by corrosion technicians. Cathodic protection is widely used to prevent corrosion around the globe, and this device makes maintaining and investigating this method much simpler. When the Smart Interrupter is utilized, the pipeline is completely undisturbed, keeping maintenance from interfering with transporting fuels.
There are many computing resources now used in the pipeline industry. Inventive software developments enhance visualization and manufacturing abilities. SCADA software from ICONICS recently developed flagship software for Manufacturing Intelligence compatible with the Microsoft Vista operating system. Because of this operating system compliance, Window's Visto will increase the security, productivity, and infrastructure of pipeline development substantially. There are a plethora of industrial automation benefits brought about by this software solution.
Advancements in coating technology continue to develop due to the need for construction efficiency as well as safety. A primerless coating has been developed by the Covalence Adhesives Corrosioin Protection Group. It is a cold-applied, primerless coating for corrosion protection of joints and fittings and is distinguished as a Polyken 4000 PCS coating. This coating also complies with environmental standards by not emitting VOCs.
The high demand for leak detection has produced an advanced detecting technology that singles out methane from other gases, thus preventing false alarms. The DP-IR leak detection technology, developed by Heath Consultants Inc., will improve the productivity and safety of walking or mobile pipeline surveys. It utilizes an infrared optical gas detection system and will replace the traditional flame ionized technology.
A-T Controls has created shut-off valves that have already been approved by the FERC. Their advanced design features a build-to-order application to protect fuel-burning equipment, a spring-return automated ball valve that is completely explosion-proof, a superior valve seating, and a patented stem seal system. These shut-off valves are extremely reliable and compact, saving space and lives.
These are only a few of the recent developments in technology that companies like Western Pipeline Corporation are using and investigating to continue to improve the business of fuel transportation.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corporation is a successful, private independent producer of oil and natural gas.

Drilling in the Illinois Basin

Illinois has become an increasing popular place for oil and natural gas drilling ventures. The depression of the basin covers almost 60K square miles in the Midwestern United States, and contains over 100K cubic miles of sedimentary rock, ranging in age from Cambrian to Permian. Marine carbonates are most common, along with siltstone, shale, and sandstone. The Illinois basin was created by a rift system that failed at the same time as a breakup of the "Supercontinent," or Pangea. This occurred sometime in the early Cambrian period, and the basin later continued to change into a cratonic embayment in the late Cambrian period. In the Carboniferous period of the late Cretaceous, a massive uplift known as the Pascola arch caused a structural enclosure to the basin.
Since the discovery of the Illinois Basin in 1886, almost 4 billion barrels of oil have been piped out as well as four trillion cubic feet of dissolved natural gas material in the Paleozoic rock. Most of the hydrocarbons have been produced from the Pennsylvanian and Mississippian sandstone layers. However, the Devonian, Ordovician, and Silurian Rocks have also been quite productive. There are an abundance of fossil fuels still located in the Illinois basin, with the main obstacle being retrieving it and transporting it. As a result Western Pipeline Corporation and other companies are able to turn sizable profits by providing the construction and ingenuity necessary. Most of the petroleum coming from the basin comes from anticlinal structures with trapping components that are stratigraphic. Along with diagenetic porosity pinch-outs, stratigraphic-fault traps are excellent formations for petroleum production.
There is actually the potential for increased reserves in the Illinois basin in the coming future with several strategies. Secondary and tertiary methods can recover immobile oil, which is estimated to be more than 4 billion barrels, and there is still an abundance of further exploration needed to find more subtle traps. There also continues to be an abundance of production in the Cambro-Ordovician section of rock, but deep drilling is required in this virtually unmapped territory. Bypassed mobile oil is estimated to be in excess of a billion barrels and can be reached through strategic infill drilling.
There is still an abundance of possible oil and natural gas reserves available in the rich region of the Illinois Basin, and the most valuable part of this fact is the location of the Basin. Because it is centrally located within the US borders, transportation costs are extremely low, providing for more profit margins. As oil becomes higher in demand, the Illinois Basin will continue to grow in profitability with and abundance of over 5 billion currently accessible barrels of oil, and future technologies will create even more production options.

About the Author: Bob Jent is the CEO of Western Pipeline Corporation. Western Pipeline Corp is a successful, private independent producer of oil and natural gas.