The Role of Energy Pipelines and Research in the United States: Sustaining the Viability and Productivity of a National Asset

This report surveys the contributions of oil and gas pipelines in meeting the Nation’s energy needs, the critical role that research played in making those contributions possible up until now, and how research will be necessary in the future to meet the challenges facing pipelines.  Continued, even increased, dependence on pipelines is clear.  Not only will demand for oil and natural gas grow, requiring greater capacity for distribution across the nation and into communities, but regional patterns of supply and demand will shift, requiring reconfigured pipeline movements.  Research is essential to improve pipeline safety, supply reliability, environmental performance, security and efficiency as the system encounters higher capacity utilization and higher bars for performance.


  • Energy from oil and natural gas is essential, and will continue to be essential, to all facets of our daily lives.  It fuels most of our transportation needs, heats our homes, schools, offices and shops, and even generates a share of our electricity.  Oil and natural gas together supply approximately two-thirds of the U.S. energy needs. 
  • Crude oil and natural gas are generally produced in regions located far from consumption centers.  This means crude oil must be moved to refineries, and refined products and natural gas must be moved from producing regions to consumption centers.
  • The U.S. pipeline infrastructure is the primary means of transporting this natural gas and oil, moving all the natural gas and about two-thirds of the oil.  Consequently, everyone in the U.S. is a stakeholder.  Few, however, recognize this fact, depending instead on governmental agencies to represent and protect their interests as citizens.
  • These stakeholders justifiably demand safe, reliable, secure, and environmentally responsible pipeline operations, and they expect continued improvement in each of these areas.
  • Research, broadly defined as the generation and application of knowledge, is the key to driving improvement.  Collaborative research: robust strategic planning, clear direction, adequate funding, effective management, seamless technology transfer, and incentives for deployment, is the best model for producing research results that yield value to all stakeholders.
  • The importance of energy pipelines to the U.S. economy and our standard of living dictates that all stakeholders, including the public, participate in funding pipeline research, thereby enabling continual safety, supply reliability, productivity, security, and environmental performance improvements.