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Pipeline Economic Competitiveness

Pipeline Employment

In the United States, 2020 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics for all pipeline transportation occupations show that 51,140 people were employed in the pipeline industry with a median hourly wage of $35.55. The transport of natural gas sector employs the greatest percent capturing 60 percent of all pipeline employment.

Estimating the Value of Pipeline in the Region

The Freight Analysis Framework (FAF), a partnership between the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and Federal Highway Administration, integrates data from various sources to create a comprehensive picture of freight movement among states and major metropolitan areas by all modes of transportation.

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Details of FAF

The 2017 Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) and international trade data from the Census Bureau serve as the backbone of FAF and are integrated with ancillary data sources that capture goods movement in agriculture, resource extraction, utility, construction, retail, services, and other sectors. FAF 5.2 is updated every five years. OKI used FAF5 (2017) pipeline data sources for commodity flow information. The OKI region consists of two FAF Regions or Zones; the Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, OH-KY-IN CFS Area (KY Part), and the Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, OH-KY-IN CFS Area (OH Part).

One limitation of FAF data: It does not report on freight volumes traveling through the OKI region. As Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA) data has shown, a majority of pipeline miles are designated as interstate — meaning they are connecting across states and transporting commodities through the region. Since FAF does not include this through directional flow, the data is not accurately reflecting the interstate product traveling through the OKI region. A second FAF limitation is that pipeline freight transported between trucks and rail is captured in a separate, catch-all the category — “Multiple Modes and Mail.” This Multiple Modes category collects and combines all freight (trucks, rail, water, air, pipeline) traveling between one or more modes. A third FAF pipeline data limitation is that it only includes crude petroleum (crude oil), natural gas, and product pipelines. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reports that there are no transmission pipeline miles in the OKI region dedicated to product.

With these limitations noted, FAF is still the best source available to metropolitan areas like OKI for pipeline commodity information — such as directional flow (which states whether the product is traveling within, outbound or inbound); annual volume or tonnage; and annual value of product transported. The reader is advised to consider FAF data as a very conservative estimate, as the true impact of pipelines upon the OKI region is much greater. With the “through” directional commodity flow not reported, FAF data show that the majority (95 percent) of our region’s remaining pipeline flows are “inbound” with a 2017 annual value of $2.7 billion. Outbound flows represent less than half a percent of the total pipeline volume and value.

For a more detailed look at FAF pipeline data, view the OKI Commodity Flow Report.

Primary Transmission Pipeline Commodity Categories

Based on total miles, in 2020 the region’s pipelines are used to transport the following commodities:

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Crude Oil

Crude oil is liquid petroleum that is found underground. Depending on where it is found and the conditions under which it was formed, crude oil can vary widely in density, viscosity, and sulfur content. Crude oil is processed by oil-producing companies to make refined products, such as gasoline, home heating oil, diesel fuel, aviation gasoline, jet fuels, and kerosene.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas

Liquefied Petroleum Gas is butane and propane separated from natural gasoline and sold in liquid form as fuel. It is also known as bottled gas or gas.

Natural Gas

Natural Gas is a flammable gas, consisting largely of methane and other hydrocarbons, occurring naturally underground (often in association with petroleum) and used as fuel.

Natural Gas Liquid

Natural Gas Liquid can be ethane, butane, propane, or a propane-butane mix.

Other Highly Volatile Liquid

Other Highly Volatile Liquid is a hazardous liquid that will form a vapor cloud when released to the atmosphere and has a vapor pressure exceeding 276 kPa (40 psia) at 37.8° C (100° F).

Non-Highly Volatile Liquid

Non-Highly Volatile Liquid is a hazardous liquid which does not form a vapor cloud when released to the atmosphere and which has a vapor pressure exceeding 276 kPa (40 psia) at 37.8 °C (100 °F).

Empty Gas (Abandoned) and Empty Liquid (Abandoned)

Two other commodity categories, Empty Gas (Abandoned) and Empty Liquid (Abandoned), denote permanently abandoned transmission pipeline miles. Empty Gas and Empty Liquid refer to the commodity that was transported prior to abandonment. For instance, a natural gas transmission line filled with water during the permanent abandonment process would be coded Empty Gas (Abandoned).

In 2020, more than half of the transmission pipeline miles in the OKI region were carrying natural gas. The largest commodity change, which occurred between 2010 and 2020, is the increase in pipeline miles dedicated to the category of Other Highly Volatile Liquid.

Pipeline Operators

Seventeen different operators have pipeline investments in the region. Enterprise Products Operating, LLC operates 30 percent of all transmission pipeline miles here. Their liquid transmission pipelines connect the OKI region to the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Enterprise is one example of how this diverse network of pipeline operators links our region to processing plants; port terminals; plants; storage facilities; refineries; and other critical national and international freight destinations and markets.

Powering the Region’s Power Plants

There are 23 operable electric generating power plants in the OKI region. Ten of these are powered by natural gas or a combination of natural gas, as well as by crude oil or petroleum delivered through the pipeline network. Combined, these plants can produce 3047.6 megawatts of energy from natural gas for the electrical grid. This is enough energy to power a community of 2.7 million people. (Source: Consumers Energy. (2022). Natural Gas Generation.)

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