What are the advantages of pipeline transportation

Pipelines and tankers

The worldwide transport of crude oil takes place within the continents via pipelines and between the continents via tankers. Around half of the oil produced in 2016 was transported across borders in this way. Comparing the pipeline transportation of natural gas and crude oil, the transportation costs are related to the energy content of crude oil, because of the higher energy density, considerably lower.

According to the Mineralöl Wirtschaftsverband, 14 import crude oil pipelines were in operation in Germany in 2016, which delivered crude oil from abroad, for example from Trieste, Rotterdam or Plok, and distributed it domestically to the refineries. Their total length in Germany is around 2000 kilometers and together they have a crude oil throughput of 104.5 million tons. The network is also used in part for the sale of mineral oil products from the refineries, for which a large transport fleet of inland waterways and tankers is also available.

Transport by tanker

Barges and, above all, the pipelines also supply dozens of depots across the country, from which regional customers such as chemical companies and petrol station networks are supplied with mineral oil products.

In addition to pipelines, global gas trading is increasingly taking place with liquefied natural gas, the so-called Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). To do this, the natural gas is cooled to minus 161.5 degrees Celsius, thereby significantly reducing its volume for transport: 600 cubic meters of gas are converted into one cubic meter of LNG. In this state, LNG can be transported at almost atmospheric pressure in special tankers with insulated storage tanks. At the destination, it is then heated in a simple process and returned to its gaseous state so that it is available again for gas pipeline transport. An LNG tanker takes between 5 and 55 days to travel from the liquefaction plant to the landing terminal, depending on the distance.

The largest tankers in world trade are able to transport more than 250,000 cubic meters of LNG over a length of 300 meters. This could supply a large city with two million inhabitants with energy for almost a whole year. The technology for liquefaction in so-called liquefaction lines in the country of origin and for re-evaporation at the destination is so well developed that, according to the International Gas Union from April 2017, 248 million tons of LNG were transported worldwide in this way in 2016. This corresponded to 9.8 percent of the global gas consumption, which was supplied by a global number of liquefaction plants with a total production capacity of 339.7 million tons per year. 439 ships were used for this purpose. LNG was supplied by 18 countries in 2016. The main exporters were Qatar with 29.9 percent, Australia with 17.2 percent, Malaysia with 9.7 percent, Nigeria with 7.2 percent and Indonesia with 6.4 percent.