Colonial Pipeline

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Colonial Pipeline, headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, delivers a daily average of 100×106 US gallons (3.8×108 L) of gasoline, home heating oil, aviation fuel and other refined petroleum products to communities and businesses throughout the South and Eastern United States. Colonial consists of more than 5,500 mi (8,900 km) of pipeline, originating at Houston, Texas, and terminating at the Port of New York and New Jersey. The pipeline travels through the coastal states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Branches from the main pipeline also reach Tennessee.

The main lines are 40 inches (1,000 mm) and 36 inches (910 mm) in diameter, with one primarily devoted to gasoline and the other carrying distillate products such as jet fuel, Diesel fuel, and home heating oil. The pipeline connects directly to major airports along the system. Fifteen associated tank farms store more than 1.2×109 US gallons (4.5×109 L) of fuel and provide a 45-day supply for local communities.

Products move through the main lines at a rate of about 3 to 5 miles per hour (4.8 to 8.0 km/h). It generally takes from 14 to 24 days for a batch to get from Houston, Texas to the New York harbor, with 18.5 days the average time.[1]

Colonial Pipeline's owners include Koch Industries (a.k.a. Koch Capital Investments Company LLC, 28.09% stake ownership), South Korea's National Pension Service and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (a.k.a. Keats Pipeline Investors LP, 23.44% stake ownership), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (16.55% stake ownership), Royal Dutch Shell (a.k.a. Shell Pipeline Company LP, 16.12% stake ownership), and Industry Funds Management (a.k.a. IFM (US) Colonial Pipeline 2 LLC, 15.80% stake ownership).

History timeline[edit]


Eight major oil companies[who?] began discussing a Gulf Coast-to-East Coast pipeline in 1956.


On June 7, 1961, Sinclair Pipeline Co., Texaco Inc., Gulf Oil Co., American Oil Co., The Pure Oil Co., Phillips Petroleum Co., The Cities Service Co. and Continental Oil Co. filed incorporation papers in Delaware to establish Suwannee Pipe Line Company "for the purpose of building a 22-inch line from Houston to the Baltimore-Washington area capable of delivering 300,000 barrels of refined products a day."[1]:p.15Construction of Colonial Pipeline's original system started in 1961.[2][3]


In February 1962, the board Suwannee Pipe Line Company met to rename the company. The board decided on Colonial Pipeline Company to reflect the number of Colonial America states the proposed pipeline would traverse from Houston, Texas to New York harbor. Mobil joined the other eight companies in 1962.[1]:p.16

On March 6, 1962, Colonial Pipeline Company formally announced its plans. A press release from the announcement in part stated, the nine companies "launched the largest single, privately financed construction project in the history of the United States." The initial investment by the nine companies approached $370 million. R.J. Andress is named President of the newly formed company.[1]:p.16

To construct the Colonial Pipeline, 600,000 tons of steel would be required, 16.7 million cubic yards of earth will need to be trenched to bury the pipeline that would initially include 27 pumping stations to move refined product between Houston, Texas And Linden, New Jersey.[1]:p.16

A ceremonial ground-breaking near Atlanta, the pipeline's eventual headquarters, on June 20, 1962, by U.S. Commerce Secretary Luther Hodges preceded actual construction, which began Aug. 1, 1962, in Mississippi. In his remarks, Secretary Hodges stated in part, "This is the sort of action this country needs if it is to realize its full economic potential."[1]:p.2

On July 2, 1962, Colonial Pipeline Company solicited bids from contractors to build 15 segments of the pipeline's mainline. Each segment averaged 100 miles and 200-300 workers. Work progressed at roughly one mile per day for each of the segments.[1]:p.19

The first lengths of pipe were delivered by rail, barge and on specially constructed trailers to handle 80-foot double joints on the road.[1]:p.19–20

December 1962, Ben "Tex" Leuty is named president of Colonial Pipeline Company. Prior to being named president, Mr. Leuty served as vice president and general manager overseeing construction of the pipeline.[1]:p.20


Recognizing the significance of the Colonial Pipeline Project, Fortune Magazine's cover story in February 1963 featured the project.[1]:p.20

Given the extraordinary nature of the Colonial project, engineers faced many challenges. Chief among them, designing and constructing valves capable of opening and closing 2 ton steel gates in a timely manner to prevent the intermingling of different products. Electric motors took 3 minutes to close the massive gates, which allowed 2,400 barrels of product to intermix, rendering the product unusable. To reduce this intermixing, Colonial engineers designed a hydraulic system which cut the intermixing down to 120 barrels.[1]:p.21

The first "linefill" of Colonial began the morning of Sept. 16, 1963 in Houston, but was shut down that same afternoon for two days later when Hurricane Cindy struck the Gulf Coast.[1]:p.21

Product reached Greensboro, North Carolina for the first time in November 1963.[1]:p.22


On April 27, 1964, the first batch of refined product was delivered to the Roanoke, Virginia area.[1]:p.22

On June 2, 1964, Colonial made its first delivery to the Baltimore, Maryland – Washington, D.C. area.[1]:p.21

Colonial Pipeline Company was featured in the August 1964 edition of Time Magazine in an article titled, "The Invisible Network: A Revolution Underground."[1]:p.23

On December 1, 1964 mainline construction of the Colonial Pipeline was complete and the Linden Junction Tank Farm and Delivery Facility was activated.[1]:p.23

The Colonial Pipeline system was fully operational on December 18, 1964.[1]:p.24


The Colonial system averaged a throughput of 636,553 barrels of refined product a day in 1965, its first full year of operation.[1]:p.25

Fred Steinberger is elected president of Colonial Pipeline Company on July 26, 1965 and takes control of the company in October.[1]:p.25

In a late 1965 edition of Pipeline Magazine, the magazine wrote, "Colonial Pipeline will perhaps do more to change America's transportation and marketing operations in the East and South than any single undertaking in which our country has participated in recent years."[1]:p.25


By February 1966, Colonial was averaging a daily throughput of 776,883 barrels of refined product each day, far surpassing the 600,000 barrel per day estimates when construction began just a few years prior.[1]:p.33

In May 1966, Colonial began phase one of an expansion project which consisted of 18 intermediate booster stations which added horsepower to the system and in turn allowed more product to flow through the mainline between Selma, North Carolina and Greensboro, North Carolina.[1]:p.34

The Colonial pipeline board of directors approve phase 2 and 3 of its early expansion projects to increase capacity on its mainline to 1 million barrels per day.[1]:p.34–35


Phase two of the expansion was completed in November 1967 adding additional pump units and a new stubline from Mitchell, Virginia to Roanoke, Virginia.[1]:p.35


"Looping", or adding a second line parallel to the first, began in 1971 and would continue through 1980, essentially double the capacity of the pipeline system and has a total of 593 employees.[1]:p.36


Colonial's average throughput increases to an average of 1,584,000 barrels per day.[1]:p.36

Colonial's ownership increases to 10 shareholders that include: Atlantic Richfield Company; BP Oil Company; Cities Service Company; Continental Pipe Line Company; Mobil Pipe Line Company; Phillips Investment Company; Texaco, Inc.; The American Oil Company; The Toronto Pipe Line Company and Union Oil Company.[1]:p.37


Colonial Pipeline Company names Tom Chilton as President and CEO, succeeding Fred Steingraber.[1]:p.37


Colonial Pipeline announces the construction of a 40-inch loop line from Atlanta, Georgia to Greensboro, North Carolina and a 16-inch lateral loop between Greensboro, North Carolina and Selma, North Carolina, increasing system capacity by nearly 20 percent to two million barrels per day.[1]:p.38–39


On November 3, 1978, the new 40-inch line from Atlanta, Georgia to Greensboro, North Carolina is placed into service.[1]:p.40

Colonial became the first company to equip gasoline storage tanks with geodesic domes.[1]:p.40

Colonial updated its Atlanta control center with a new generation of its computerized SCADA system.[1]:p.43


A three expansion project totaling $670 million nears completion. The Colonial Pipeline system capacity is now 83 percent more than when originally constructed.[1]:p.41


Colonial begins deliveries to Department of Defense, Defense Fuel Supply Command (DFSC).[1]:p.41


Colonial begins using caliper and magnetic pigs to detect anomalies in its pipeline system.[1]:p.42


Donald Brinkley is named president and CEO of Colonial Pipeline Company, succeeding Tom Chilton.[1]:p.42

Colonial Pipeline Company celebrates its 25th anniversary, servicing 79 shipper companies and 67 suppliers.[1]:p.47


Colonial's annual throughput reaches 635.6 million barrels.[1]:p.48

In September 1988, Colonial replaced 7,700 feet of mainline pipe across the Delaware River at a cost of $10 million.[1]:p.48


Colonial's annual throughput hits 667.8 million barrels, a record volume for the company.[1]:p.49


Colonial Pipeline Company moves its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia from Lenox Towers to Resurgens Plaza.[1]:p.52


Colonial's annual throughput reaches 676.2 million barrels.[1]:p.52

Colonial completes 4,000 miles of pipeline inspections with caliper pigs and corrosion inspections on 3,000 miles of pipe with magnetic pigs.[1]:p.52–53


Colonial introduces elastic-wave pigs to inspect and detect microscopic cracks in the pipeline walls.[1]:p.56


Colonial Pipeline Company is recognized by the DFSC for quality service.[1]:p.45

On March 26, 1997, Colonial Pipeline Company is one of ten companies recognized for quality service by the Department of Defense, Military Traffic Management Command.[1]:p.57

Colonial president and CEO Donald Brinkley retires, David Lemmon named president and CEO.[1]:p.58


Colonial replaces Pipeline Instruction and Proficiency Examination with a computer-based training program for operations and environmental field staff.[1]:p.64

Colonial expands crack-pig internal inspection program, a key element of system integrity.[1]:p.64


Colonial Pipeline Company is recognized by the American Petroleum Institute (API) for Best Safety Record and Most Improved Safety Record at the API Pipeline Conference.[1]:p.67

As a precautionary measure, on December 31, 1999, Colonial Pipeline shut down operations for a few hours before and after midnight to prevent any Y2K-related power outages.[1]:p.69


Colonial announces plans to increase pump power on the mainline, which would increase daily capacity by 144,000 barrels to 2.35 million barrels per day.[1]:p.69

On July 27, Colonial Pipeline announced that it acquired Alliance Products Pipeline and Terminal System from BP Amoco.[1]:p.71


Colonial Pipeline Company is again recognized by API for its safety and environmental record, receiving the first "Distinguished Environmental and Safety Award".[1]:p.74

In September 2001, Colonial Pipeline Company moves from Atlanta, Georgia to Alpharetta, Georgia.[1]:p.74

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Colonial increases security at each of its facilities and create a comprehensive security plan, which was later recognized by the Federal Government as a model for the pipeline industry.[1]:p.74

Colonial Pipeline marks a record year with an annual throughput of 2.3 million barrels per day.[1]:p.74


Following the passage of hurricane Ike in September 2008, this pipeline was operating at a severely reduced capacity due to a lack of supply from refineries that had closed, causing gasoline shortages across the southeastern United States.


Colonial Pipeline's field operations are divided into three districts:

  • The Gulf Coast District includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and is primarily responsible for the originating deliveries on Colonial. Other than a few refineries in the Northeast, Colonial draws products from refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.[4]:p.6
  • The Southeast District includes Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The company's second largest tank farm is in suburban Atlanta and is the point from which local supplies are delivered and from where pipelines serving Tennessee and southern Georgia originate. The company's largest tank farm is in Greensboro, North Carolina. where the two mainlines originating in Houston terminate. It is from this point that deliveries to the Northeast originate.[5]
  • The Northeast District's operations include Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. Colonial's Northeast operations also serve Delaware and Pennsylvania. In Linden, New jersey, Colonial operates the Intra-Harbor Transfer system, which provides numerous customers the ability to transfer products among themselves and access barge transportation for exporting product.[6]

Colonial connects directly to major airports, including Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh-Durham, Dulles and Baltimore-Washington. It serves metropolitan New York airports via connections with Buckeye Pipeline.[1]:p.63

Colonial's approved product list includes more than 86 different products. Approximately 15 to 20 of these products move with great regularity on the pipeline.[7]

Primarily, shipments are fungible, but segregated shipments are possible and occur regularly. Fungible shipments are products commingled with other quantities of the same product specifications. Segregated batches preserve a fuel property not allowed in the fungible specifications.[7]

All products delivered on Colonial must pass a rigorous, oversight test program to assure quality. Colonial protects the quality of the products it carries to the point of excluding certain products. For example, bio-Diesel contains fatty-acid methyl esters (FAME), which cannot be allowed to mix into jet fuels moving in the same pipeline.[7]


Colonial became the first company to equip gasoline storage tanks with geodesic domes in 1978.[1]:p.40

Colonial begins use of caliper and magnetic pigs to detect anomalies in the lines in 1985.[1]:p.42

Following a historic flood that ruptured a number of pipelines at the San Jacinto River in Texas, Colonial directionally drilled 30 feet beneath the river and floodplain, putting in place two new 3,100-foot permanent lines.[1]:p.60

Safety and environmental record[edit]

Colonial received the API's Distinguished Environmental and Safety award four consecutive years (1999–2002).[1]:p.67,71

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina knocked out power in large parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, forcing Colonial to operate at reduced flow rates. Portable generators were rented and helped restore partial service as utilities recovered and restored normal service. When Hurricane Rita hit a month later, Colonial used these generators to help load product stranded in refinery storage tanks that did not have power. By the time hurricanes Gustav and Ike struck in 2008, Colonial owned and operated this set of emergency generators. A new set of generators was purchased in 2012 and is stationed in Mississippi, inland and out of the direct path of most storms.[8]

Spill history[edit]

Early on September 2, 1970, residents of Jacksonville, Maryland, detected gasoline odors and noticed gasoline in a small creek flowing beneath a nearby road. Because fumes were still present in the late afternoon of September 2, a resident notified Colonial at 6:19 p.m. about the situation. Colonial, which had a 30-inch-diameter pipeline situated about 1,700 feet east of the point where the creek passed under the road, shut down the Dorsey Junction, Maryland, pump station (the initial pump station for this section of the pipeline) at 6:34 p.m. About 12 hours later, on the morning of September 3, an explosion and fire occurred in a ditch in which contractor personnel for Colonial were manually digging to further expose the pipeline and catch gasoline trickling from the ground. Five persons were injured, none fatally. The leak point was found four days later. The failure resulted in a release of 30,186 gallons (718 barrels) of gasoline and kerosene.[9]

At 9:51 p.m. on December 19, 1991, Colonial's Line 2, a 36-inch-diameter petroleum products pipeline, ruptured about 2.8 miles downstream of the company's Simpsonville, South Carolina, pump station. The rupture allowed more than 500,000 gallons (13,100 barrels) of Diesel fuel to flow into Durbin Creek, causing environmental damage that affected 26 miles of waterways, including the Enoree River, which flows through Sumter National Forest. The spill also forced Clinton and Whitmire, South Carolina, to use alternative water supplies.[10]

On Sunday, March 28, 1993 at 8:48 a.m., a pressurized 36-inch-diameter (910 mm) petroleum product pipeline owned and operated by Colonial Pipeline Company ruptured near Herndon, Virginia. The rupture created a geyser that sprayed Diesel fuel over 75 feet (23 m) into the air, coating overhead power lines and adjacent trees, and misting adjacent Virginia Electric & Power Company buildings. The Diesel fuel spewed from the rupture into an adjacent storm water management pond and flowed overland and through a network of storm sewer pipes before reaching Sugarland Run Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River.

In October 1994, after heavy rainfall in the Houston area, failures of eight pipelines occurred with damage to 29 others. Two of the failures included Colonial Pipeline lines. The failures occurred at a crossing of the San Jacinto river. The river, which normally flows at 2.5 feet above sea level, crested at 28 feet above sea level on October 21. The river caused major soil erosion. Colonial's 40-inch gasoline pipeline failed on October 20 at 8:31 a.m. and by 9:51 a.m. explosions and fires erupted on the river. Colonial's 36-inch (Diesel) pipeline ruptured about 2 p.m. on the same day, although it had previously been temporarily out of service and that limited the amount of the spill.[11]

In 1996, a 36-inch diameter Colonial pipeline ruptured at the Reedy River, near Fork Shoals, South Carolina, June 26. The ruptured pipeline released about 957,600 US gallons (3,625,000 L) of fuel oil into the Reedy River and surrounding areas. The spill polluted a 34-mile (55 km) stretch of the Reedy River, causing significant environmental damage. Floating oil extended about 23 miles (37 km) down the river. Approximately 35,000 fish were killed, along with other aquatic organisms and wildlife. The estimated cost to Colonial Pipeline for cleanup and settlement with the State of South Carolina was $20.5 million. No one was injured in the accident. The pipeline was operating at reduced pressure due to known corrosion issues, but pipeline operator confusion led to an accidental return to normal pressure in that pipeline section, causing the rupture.[12][13][14]

In 1997 On May 30, Colonial Pipeline spilled approximately 18,900 US gallons (72,000 L) of gasoline, some of which entered an unnamed creek and its adjoining shoreline in the Bear Creek watershed near Athens, Georgia. During the spill, a vapor cloud of gasoline formed, causing several Colonial employees to flee for safety. This spill resulted from a calculation error related to a regular procedure. No one checked the calculations, nor did Colonial have a procedure in place to check such calculations.[12]

Due to seven different spills on Colonial Pipeline in four years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined Colonial $34 million on April 1, 2003.[15]

On Wednesday, October 3, 2012, Colonial Pipeline shut down line 19 and 20 in Chattanooga, Tennessee due to reports of gasoline odors. It was reported that about 500 gallons of gasoline may have been released.[16] The line carrying gasoline was repaired and the distillate line, which carries Diesel fuel, jet fuel and other products, was inspected and found to be undamaged. Both lines were restarted two days later on October 5, 2012.[17]

On Friday, September 9, 2016, a leak was detected in Shelby County, Alabama, spilling an estimated 252,000 US gallons (954,000 L) of summer-grade gasoline, requiring a partial shutdown of the pipeline and threatening fuel shortages in the southeastern United States.[18][19]

See also[edit]

List of pipelines


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj Parker, Barry; Robin Hood (2002). Colonial Pipeline: Courage, Passion, Commitment. Chattanooga, TN: Parker Hood. ISBN 0-9645704-8-3. 
  2. ^ Corporation, Bonnier (1 October 1963). "Popular Science". Bonnier Corporation. Retrieved 17 September 2016 – via Google Books. 
  3. ^ "Home". Retrieved 17 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "Potential Impacts of Reductions in Refinery Activity on Northeast Petroleum Product Markets." U.S. Energy Information Administration May 2012.
  5. ^ "Colonial Pipeline Provides "Call Before You Dig" Message." Pipeline News October 2012.
  6. ^ "Intra Harbor Transfer Service" Accessed October 7, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c "Colonial Pipeline - Product Codes and Specifications" October 5, 2012.
  8. ^ "Isaac to Test Power System Upgrades After Katrina's Blackouts." Bloomberg Businessweek August 28, 2012.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Colonial Pipeline reports Tennessee gasoline spill" October 4, 2012.
  17. ^ "Colonial Pipeline Completes Repair and Restarts Line Segments" October 5, 2012.
  18. ^ "Colonial Pipeline: 252,000 gallons of gasoline have leaked in Shelby County". WBRC. 2016-09-13. 
  19. ^ "Leaking Alabama pipeline could restart this week, company says" September 18, 2016

External links[edit]