A complex distribution system for natural gas has been in place for decades in the United States, which – until recently – principally carried gas from the Southwest to other regions of the country. With the advent of shale gas development, additional distribution infrastructure is needed. In response, pipeline companies are hurrying to meet demand, with plans for pipeline construction that have the potential to impact many more communities and property owners than do the shale gas wells themselves. Projections suggest that, through 2035, the country’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure will triple. 1
As the development of this network will have health and other impacts around the country, this section offers an overview of the pipeline system, how it is regulated, potential community health effects, and management options.
The Pipeline Network – What Is It?
Gas produced at the wellhead is transported to markets through a series of pipelines:
- flowlines carry raw gas and fluids at or near the wellhead and within a production facility
- gathering lines bring the gas from a production facility to a central collection point
- transmission lines are the long-distance haulers, transporting processed gas to and from storage facilities and compressor stations, and to distribution lines
- distribution lines, or mains, carry gas under reduced pressure from large high-pressure transmission lines to low-pressure customer service lines
The pipeline network is illustrated in Figure 8 below.
- Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) Foundation, “North American Midstream Infrastructure through 2035: Capitalizing on Our Energy Abundance,” prepared by ICF International: March 18, 2014. ↩