When people speak of pipelines, they often do so without clear understanding of the variance between pipelines. The U.S. natural gas pipeline network is composed of an integrated web made up of roughly 3 million miles of mainline pipe. One category within this web are the local gas distribution pipelines.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), local gas distribution pipelines “receive natural gas from the mainline transmission grid and deliver it to consumers.” These pipelines are known as “mains” and typically serve as the middle step between low-pressure service lines and high-pressure transmission lines. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) further details that “more than 1,100 local distribution companies deliver natural gas to end users through hundreds of thousands of miles of small-diameter service lines.”
The EIA chronicled the expansion of the integrated network transporting natural gas across the country, and found that “a large portion of the 1.3 million miles of local distribution pipelines that receive natural gas from the mainline transmission grid and deliver it to consumers was also installed between 1950 and 1969. The period of greatest local distribution pipeline growth happened more recently. In the 1990s, more than 225,000 miles of new local distribution pipelines were installed to provide service to the many new commercial facilities and housing developments that wanted access to natural gas supplies.”
Fundamentally, these pipelines are the safest vehicles to transport natural gas – thanks in large part “to the fact that the infrastructure is fixed, and buried underground.”