Oil being moved from Oklahoma to Gulf Coast traversing through Fort Bend County

5 05 2012

A pipeline project aimed at moving crude oil in storage in Oklahoma is nearing completion.  The Seaway Crude Oil Pipeline transports approximately 150,000 barrels a day from a storage facility near Cushing, Oklahoma to Freeport, in Brazoria County.  Newspaper reports indicate that the line will require 2.5 million barrels of oil to fill, and the initial transit time will be about fifteen days.

As you can see from the map to the left, the Seaway pipeline crosses across Fort Bend County. The Seaway system includes a 500-mile Freeport, Texas to Cushing, Oklahoma pipeline and a terminal and distribution crude oil network originating in Texas City, Texas that serves all of the refineries in the Greater Houston area.  Seaway Crude Pipeline Company LLC (Seaway) is a 50/50 joint venture between Enterprise Products Partners L.P. which serves as operator and Enbridge Inc., which purchased its ownership interest from ConocoPhillips on November 16, 2011.

Enterprise and Enbridge are in the process of reversing Seaway, allowing it to transport crude oil from the bottlenecked Cushing, Oklahoma hub to the vast refinery complex along the Gulf Coast near Houston. In reversed service the line is expected to have an initial capacity of 150,000 barrels per day (BPD) by second quarter 2012. Following pump station additions and modifications, anticipated to be completed by early 2013, the capacity of the reversed Seaway Pipeline will increase to approximately 400,000 BPD of crude oil, assuming a mix of light and heavy grades.  The photo below shows field crews installing a new piece of pipe for the pipeline at a valve site in Fort Bend County.

Though the Seaway pipeline is a big project, it is only one of many pipelines that criss-cross Fort Bend County.  In fact, over 1600 miles of pipelines are located in the County.  Of course, that is not very much when you consider that over two million miles of pipelines can be found in the United States.  That is enough to circle the earth about 100 times. However, even though there are pipelines almost everywhere, most people do not know that such a large network even exists.

The US Department of Transportation notes that most hazardous liquid and gas pipelines are buried underground. To ensure your safety and avoid damaging underground lines, you must call your state one-call center before digging. Call Before you Dig!  Most hazardous liquid and gas transmission  pipelines are located underground in rights-of-way (ROW). A ROW consists of consecutive property easements acquired by, or granted to, the pipeline company. The ROW provides sufficient space to perform pipeline maintenance and inspections, as well as a clear zone where encroachments can be monitored and prevented. ROW Briefing.

To find out if a transmission pipeline is located near you, you can visit the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) and search by your county or zip code.  Pipeline operators are required to post brightly-colored markers along their ROW to indicate the presence of – but not necessarily the exact location of – their underground pipelines. Markers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They contain information about the nearby pipeline as well as emergency contact information for the company that operates it. Pipeline Markers Briefing

Gas distribution systems consist of distribution main lines and service lines. Distribution main lines are generally installed in underground utility easements alongside streets and highways. Distribution service lines run from the distribution main line into homes or businesses. Distribution main and service lines are not generally indicated by above-ground markers. To ensure safety and avoid damaging underground lines, anyone planning to dig or excavate is required by law to contact their state One-Call center 48 to 72 hours before digging.

Emergency responders across the County are aware of the pipelines.  Our fire departments receive relevant information from the pipeline operators that work in our area.  In December 2010, a Fort Bend County Pipeline Explosion Exercise was developed and held to test the County Emergency Operations Center’s capabilities to respond to a pipeline explosion in an unincorporated section of the County.   During the exercise, the participants successfully achieved pre-identified objectives related to tracking resources, developing an Incident Action Plan, managing information within and external to the Emergency Operations Center, and gaining situational awareness during such an incident.

There is a tremendous amount of information about pipelines available on the Internet. However, if you have specific questions about pipelines in Fort Bend County, please do not hesitate to contact the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management and we will try to assist you.