The United States has the largest network of energy pipelines in the world, with approximately 2.6 million miles – a total that is more than 10 times the distance from the earth to the moon.
Those pipelines carry trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of tons of liquid petroleum products yearly. With all of those miles of pipelines come the inevitable problems – lack of regulation, mechanical malfunction, and simple human error, to name a few – that occasionally produce explosions the result in injuries, or even death.
FracTracker Alliance recently published an analysis of fossil fuel pipeline incidents from January 2010 to November 2018, covering three types of pipelines:
- natural gas transmission lines that carry natural gas from production areas to processing plants and municipal distribution areas;
- liquids (including oil);
- and natural gas distribution lines that carry gas from plants to customers.
Data from the analysis showed that those millions of miles of pipelines have resulted in the following:
- more than 5,500 incidents
- almost 600 injuries
- more than 125 fatalities
- more than 800 fires
- almost 300 explosions
- more than $4 billion in damages
- almost 30,000 people who required evacuation.
This data does not even capture all “incidents,” because the data is not complete. For example, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) estimates that only about 5 percent of gas-gathering pipelines are subject to its pipeline safety regulations.