Over the last decade, oil and gas production in the U.S. has dramatically increased due to the rise of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Between 2010 and 2020, crude oil production within the United States more than doubled while natural gas production increased nearly 60 percent. This surge in production has driven a massive expansion of the network of infrastructure – including pipelines – that transports, refines, and utilizes oil and natural gas.
There are over 3 million miles of regulated pipelines transporting natural gas, crude oil, and other petroleum products within the United States, with over 7,000 miles of new pipeline planned or under construction, according to the Energy Information Administration. In recent years, community and activist groups, driven by concerns about oil spills, impacts on waterways, explosions, and eminent domain, have mounted significant opposition to numerous pipeline projects.
The cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline was in large part due to the tenacity of indigenous groups and environmental activists, who cited the threat of hazardous leaks, greenhouse gas emissions, and water pollution in their decade-long fight against the project. The Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia, which was just granted a second extension by the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission, has prompted a similarly fierce resistance from community groups. And the Blue Marlin Pipeline, a proposed pipeline in Texas that would cross underneath Sabine Lake, is facing forceful opposition from community groups concerned about the risk of oil spills.
Access to pipeline route data is central to evaluating the potential environmental and community impacts of pipeline projects. However, this information is often limited by government agencies claiming confidential business information or homeland security risks. And much of the available information about pipelines can be difficult or expensive to access because it is often buried deep in paper or PDF documents or obscure government databases. Information about new and proposed pipelines is even harder to find.
That’s why we are now making over 100 new and proposed pipeline routes available on Oil & Gas Watch. Examples of some of the pipeline routes featured in this new dataset are highlighted below.
Adding pipeline routes to Oil & Gas Watch is an ongoing collaborative effort between Fractracker Alliance, Healthy Gulf, and the Environmental Integrity Project. These routes supplement the information and records on the Oil and Gas Watch database and help visualize the connectivity between various oil and gas infrastructure projects. Oil and Gas Watch is focused on highlighting new and proposed pipelines and expansion projects, and does not feature all existing pipelines.
Researchers from Fractracker Alliance, Healthy Gulf, and the Environmental Integrity Project use GIS mapping software to convert routes from paper or PDF maps to geospatial data (a painstaking process called digitizing). In some cases, map files are available from databases maintained by state agencies like the Texas Railroad Commission and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. Route information for some projects may not be available. We will continue to update the dataset as additional route information is identified and becomes available.
Detailed information about where and when we obtained the information for each pipeline is available through a map layer available here. Please note that many of the routes correspond with expansion projects— in these cases, only the new pipeline segments associated with the expansion project are displayed. Additionally, pipeline routes may change as a project progresses. Because the pipeline routes come from a variety of sources, the accuracy and resolution of the displayed routes vary. See here and here for more information about how we document differences in accuracy and resolution. If you have any questions about the dataset, please email email@example.com.
FracTracker Alliance maps, analyzes, and communicates the risks of oil, gas, and petrochemical development to advance just energy alternatives that protect public health, natural resources, and the climate. They support groups across the United States, addressing pressing extraction-related concerns with a lens toward health effects and exposure risks to communities impacted by the oil and gas industry.
Healthy Gulf collaborates with and serves communities who love the Gulf of Mexico by providing the research, communications, and coalition-building tools needed to reverse the long pattern of overexploitation of the Gulf’s natural resources. They use research and organizational expertise to identify and assess the threats that Gulf communities face and analyze the impacts on communities and natural resources to develop strategies for tackling those threats.
Lead photo: Construction on a pipeline in Pennsylvania. Barb Jarmoska, 2010. Photo courtesy of FracTracker Alliance.