This weekend our area was hit with a sudden gas shortage when a pipeline in Alabama sprung a leak. This problem caused panic for thousands of drivers in the Nashville area. I was wondering how this could happen? It was a sobering thought to realize what a delicate balance we have in our society when a leak in a pipeline could totally disrupt our lives.
According to oil refinery resources:
- Oil from the Gulf of Mexico supplies mostly to the Midwest and part of the East Coast
- Oil from foreign sources supply the majority of the East Coast
- Oil from Alaska and Russia supply the West Coast
- Canada and Mexico also supply oil that is spread throughout the U.S.
Oil comes from the source through pipelines, supertankers or barge. For landlocked areas, the main sources are pipelines. Once the crude oil is refined, the refineries ship the fuel to terminals and the most efficient way is using barges or pipelines. Millions of gallons are pumped every day through pipelines. Most pipelines are constructed above ground so they can be easily inspected. Once the refined oil is in the pipeline, it moves constantly until it is pumped into a receiving tank at the terminal. This is where the various companies buy the products and have trucks to transfer the product gasoline from the terminal to their retailers (i.e. gas stations).
There is some information available with maps of certain pipeline routes available to the public at the National Pipeline Mapping System site but details are not precise for national securities reasons. As you can imagine, the publishing of exact locations would make us vulnerable to terrorists.
In our situation, it is clear that with Nashville being landlocked that pipelines are the source of transportation of our gasoline. A section of the Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Houston to New York, has been closed since Sept. 9 after a spill of roughly 250,000 gallons was discovered in rural Shelby County, Alabama. The major pipeline, one pipe of which has been severed, provides gasoline for an estimated 50 million people on the East Coast each day, according to company estimates.
Apparently, the Colonial Pipeline is one of the major pipelines we are dependent upon here in Tennessee as you can see on the map below:
Personally, this disruption is yet another wake-up call that we should continue to develop alternate methods of fuel but with the big money in oil production, the progress of alternative fuel methods are not being developed enough. This system of fuel distribution seems to be too delicate. This one leak has weakened the security of three states directly.
Both our governor and mayor have released statements that we should not panic. We are to continue our normal pattern of purchasing fuel. They are a bit out of reality or clearly have not had to get their own gas. It isn’t possible to get gas like normal when pumps are closed.