A Proper Picture of the Colonial Pipeline’s Past
On September 9, 2016 a pipeline leak was detected from the Colonial Pipeline by a mine inspector in Shelby County, Alabama. It is estimated to have spilled ~336,000 gallons of gasoline, resulting in the shutdown of a major part of America’s gasoline distribution system. As such, we thought it timely to provide some data and a map on the Colonial Pipeline Project.
Figure 1. Dynamic map of Colonial Pipeline route and related infrastructure
View Map Fullscreen | How Our Maps Work | The Sept. 2016 leak occurred in Shelby County, Alabama
The Colonial Pipeline was built in 1963, with some segments dating back to at least 1954. Colonial carries gasoline and other refined petroleum projects throughout the South and Eastern U.S. – originating at Houston, Texas and terminating at the Port of New York and New Jersey. This ~5,000-mile pipeline travels through 12 states and the Gulf of Mexico at one point. According to available data, prior to the September 2016 incident for which the cause is still not known, roughly 113,382 gallons had been released from the Colonial Pipeline in 125 separate incidents since 2010 (Table 1).
Table 1. Reported Colonial Pipeline incident impacts by state, between 3/24/10 and 7/25/16
|State||Incidents (#)||Barrels* Released||Total Cost ($)|
|*1 Barrel = 42 U.S. Gallons
** The total amount of petroleum products spilled from the Colonial Pipeline in this time frame equates to roughly 113,382 gallons. This figure does not include the September 2016 spill of ~336,000 gallons.
Data source: PHMSA
Unfortunately, the Colonial Pipeline has also been the source of South Carolina’s largest pipeline spill. The incident occurred in 1996 near Fork Shoals, South Carolina and spilled nearly 1 million gallons of fuel into the Reedy River. The September 2016 spill has not reached any major waterways or protected ecological areas, to-date.
Owners of the pipeline include Koch Industries, South Korea’s National Pension Service and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Royal Dutch Shell, and Industry Funds Management.
For more details about the Colonial Pipeline, see Table 2.
Table 2. Specifications of the Colonial and/or Intercontinental pipeline
|Segment Flow Direction (# Segments)|
|Segment Bi-Directional (# Segments)|
|State||Number||Total Mileage||Avg. Mileage||Long||Avg. PSI||Avg. Diameter (in.)|
|Gulf of Mexico||437||522||1.2||77||50||1.4|
|PSI = Pounds per square inch (pressure)
Data source: US EIA
By Sam Rubright, Ted Auch, and Matt Kelso – FracTracker Alliance