Pipelines: the history of development

“Piping” is most often associated by users with the water supply and domestic gas wiring found in towns and cities. For common users it is difficult to imagine that the bulk of pipelines are of gigantic diameters. Practically the whole territory of our country is permeated with such pipelines. These are main pipelines which transport gas and oil in industrial volumes like arteries. Not much is known about them because these pipelines for safe use are hidden from eyes under the ground, rivers and mountain systems.

Thanks to these pipelines, oil and gas products are transported to consumers across the countries and continents. The pipelines can reach diameters of up to 1,422 mm and can be over thousands of kilometres long. The transport of oil and gas products is non-stop, so the reliability and safety of the pipeline’s design has a great importance. The efficient operation of the oil and gas industry is the basis for the development of national economies and the well-being of the population. Oil and gas supply the majority of the world’s energy needs. And while the trend suggests a gradual shift towards “eco” fuels – the reality is that oil supply for up to 34% of the world’s energy production, while gas accounts for 21%.

Although pipelines are an important part of today’s energy system, their origins date back thousands of years. Prototypes of the first pipes can be found in various civilisations of the ancient world. Prehistoric pipelines were used to supply water to cities and arable land. Copper pipes were used in ancient Egypt, bamboo in China and burnt clay in Greece. The world-famous Roman aqueduct systems for urban water supply have survived to this day and are admired even by our contemporaries. As for the transport of energy, so, it is known with certainty that as far back as 400 B.C. the streets of ancient Beijing were illuminated by streetlamps that were supplied with natural gas by means of bamboo tubes fastened together. At the same time, the Chinese were already productioning natural gas from the subsurface using long bamboo ties. From the middle of the 19th century, with the development of the oil industry, the era of pipelines for transferring oil begins. In 1865, the first oil pipeline with a diameter of only 152 mm was built. Since that time pipelines began to spread very rapidly around the world. In Baku, in 1878, the Nobel brothers built the first 10 km long, 76 mm diameter pipeline. The era of long pipelines begins at the beginning of the 20th century: in 1906 a 755 km pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas was built in the US. At the same time, long oil pipelines begin to envelop the US, Canada and Asia. The main factor in development of pipeline construction industry is  increasing of demand on gasoline with growth of automobile industry. In the 20s of the 20th century the total length of pipelines built reached 184,000 kilometres.

With the development of the demand for petroleum products for industry, wars and technological revolutions came the era of large-diameter pipelines for pumping oil and gas. Such pipelines were first built in the US in the 1940s, and were able, for a time, to meet the growing demand for resources as World War II broke out, and the increased energy needs of industry.

Since the mid-20th century, the discovery of gas deposits has spurred a widespread transition to natural gas and the development of a gas transportation system. And the key solution to a safe and reliable way of transporting this unique gas fuel was the construction of long-distance gas pipelines. Only their operation made it possible to cover the growing demand for household gas even in remote regions.

The end of the 20th century was marked by the construction of extra-long, high-pressure oil and gas pipelines capable of pumping products under considerable pressure.

Research has confirmed that pipelines are a cleaner and more cost-effective way of delivering energy – 40 times safer than rail tankers and 100 times safer than tank trucks.

Pipelines have an enormous capacity and their operation does not stop for an hour. Global research confirms that the demand for energy is steadily increasing and the need to develop new territories and increase the number of pipelines will be a constant. Experts estimate that there will be an increase of 3 500 000 km in the length of main pipelines – 64% for the gas transport system, 19% for the oil transport system, and 17% for the crude oil transport system.

Of course, a key consideration in pipeline construction and maintenance remains the issue of international regulations and safety standards, as their route most often passes through several countries. Accordingly, the quality of the pipeline must comply with the construction regulations of each state concerned.

Since 1965 BELRUBOPROVODSTROY JSC has taken an active part in development of main pipeline construction industry. The company’s specialists has transformed the industry and opened up new opportunities to meet the growing demand for resources. At present time, the geography of BELTRUBOPROVODSTROY’s construction projects reaches a European scale. The company remains the industry leader, having a unique scope of knowledge, experience and solutions for pipeline construction, which can accommodate the interests of all subjects in the industry. Customers who want a reliable system that can withstand the uninterrupted flow of huge volumes of resources without the associated costs of maintenance and repair. Environmentalists – who want pipelines and utilities to comply with applicable international standards and regulations and minimise environmental risks not only during operation, but also during construction. Consumers – who want environmentally friendly fuel of high quality in the short term and without interruptions to address possible deficiencies in the transport system.


*the photos are for illustrative purposes only

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