Processing Magazine

Pipelines safest mode of transport for oil, study finds

October 21, 2013

<photocredit>Stanislav Komogorov/iStockphoto/Thinkstock</photocredit>

As North America increases its oil and natural gas production, transportation capacity is becoming a key issue and the pipeline infrastructure is in urgent need of expansion. Safety concerns are making it difficult to obtain government permission for new pipeline construction so other means of transportation are being increasingly used. However, research conducted by the Fraser Institute shows that pipelines represent the safest option, beating road, rail and barge.

No mode of transportation is perfectly safe but, based on an analysis of U.S. and Canadian data, the institute concluded that pipelines offered the most environmentally friendly solution. They also emerged as safer when measured by incidents, injuries and fatalities, the Canadian organization said in its report.

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According to the publication, road transportation topped the list when it came to the number of incidents: this mode of transportation was found to result in nearly 20 incidents annually for every billion ton-miles. In the case of rail, the number was estimated at approximately two per billion ton-miles. Pipelines, on the other hand, had an annual tally of fewer than 0.6 incidents.

The U.S. data also showed that the rates of injuries leading to hospitalization were 30 times lower for oil pipeline workers when compared to those for rail workers. Pipeline incidents are also 37 times less likely to result in such injuries compared to road transport incidents.