Oil Pipelines

Up comes the thick black oil from the oil wells.out pours the gasoline into your family’s car. Gasoline is just one of the things made from oil in a factory called a refinery. But how does the oil from the oil well to the refinery? Often through long pipelines under the ground. The pipelines go under streets and farms under mountains and deserts and jungles, under frozen lands in the far north and even under lakes and rivers.

What makes the thick oil from the oil wells keep moving through the pipes, on and on, uphill and downhill? Pumping stations keep the oil moving. They are built along the pipelines. They do the same thing for the flow of oil that you do when you play kick-the-can. You kick the can. It spins away..then slows down. So you kick it again. A pumping station “kicks” the oil along.

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It works this way: As the oil in a pipe comes to a pumping station, it goes through a machine. This machine has a wheel-like part in it. At the end of the spokes of the wheel are little cups. The cups on the turning wheel scoop up the oil and push it through the pipe. Here and there along the pipelines some of the oil is turned off into smaller pipes that take it to huge storage tanks. From the tanks the oil goes into a factory, or refinery, where it is heated until it is very hot.

The hot oil can be separated into many different things. At the bottom of a tall steer tower, the heavy parts of the oil settle down. Some of this oil is later used in asphalt for road building and some is made into machine oils and waxes. Higher in the tower, heating oil, kerosine and gasoline are separated out. And at the very top of the high tower, the lightest parts of the oil-cooking gas and other kinds of gases-are collected. From the refineries, underground pipelines carry oil to all parts of the country. It is stored in big, round storage tanks in tank farms.

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Sometimes pipelines start leaking where two pipes are connected. Then the oil company sends workers to dig up the ground and fix the pipe. One interesting way that oil leaks are found is by having airplanes fly over the long lines. If men in the planes see an oil stain, they know they probably have found a leak. To keep the inside of the pipelines free from dirt, workers put special scrapers into the pipes. These scrapers are called pigs because of the funny scraping, squeaking noise they make as the oil pushes them through the pipes.

When oil was first moved from place to place, it was carried in big wooden barrels on boats, carts and trains. This wasn’t very safe and it was wasteful because the wooden barrels broke easily. Then for a long time, oil was carried in metal tank cars on railroads. But now most oil and gasoline come in the great underground spider web of pipelines. A gasoline truck fills up at a storage tank and takes the gasoline to a filling station, where the automobile tanks are filled up. With a tank full of gasoline, away you go!

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