History of Pipelines
  History Timeline

This timeline represents an edited version of text obtained from the book, The History of The Standard Oil Company, written by Ida M. Tarbell in 1904

1859: Colonel Drake Strikes Oil

"Colonel" Edwin Drake, one-time railroad conductor, drilled the first commercial oil well in Titusville Pennsylvania. By the 1880s, the commercial potentialities of oil was just beginning to be realized. In two decades oil production had grown to the point where more than 80 percent of the world’s petroleum consumption was supplied by Pennsylvania oil fields.

1863: The Teamsters & Pipeline Gathering

The first discoveries were transported to rail stations by teamsters using converted whiskey barrels and horses. From the very beginning, transportation was key with the teamsters holding the first regional monopoly position. They charged more to move a barrel of oil 5 miles by horse than the entire rail freight charge from Pennsylvania to New York City.

Despite considerable ridicule, threats, armed attacks, arson and sabotage, the first wooden pipeline, about 9 miles in length, was built in 1865 in essence bypassing the teamsters.

During this same point in history, a young entrepreneur named John D. Rockefeller, was busily acquiring kerosene refineries, and strong positions with the railroads. In 1870 he combined his companies into one, the Standard Oil Company.

1879: Tidewater - The First Trunkline

Independent oilmen, in a desperate effort to compete with Rockefeller’s position in transportation, built the first crude oil trunk line called Tidewater in 1879.

Within a year, Rockefeller owned half of Tidewater and was busily laying pipelines to Buffalo, Philadelphia, Cleveland and New York.

1880s: The Rise of Russian Oil

Rockefeller looked to export his kerosene lamp oil production to Northern Europe and Russia.

Not long after this, oil was discovered near the Russian sea town of Baku. Over 20 refineries sprang up in the region, but once again, logistics was key.

A pipeline was constructed through the mountains east of Baku where an enterprising merchant Marcus Samuel developed the first organized kerosene shipping enterprise to compete with Rockefeller and send kerosene to Europe and the Far East.

1880-1905: Gushers and Refineries

Meanwhile, back in the states, geologists were astonished to see oil discoveries in Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas, and the first true gusher at Spindletop, TX which flowed 110,000 barrels per day.

Refineries sprang up near oil fields and new markets with the largest being Rockefeller’s venture on the southern shores of lake Michigan at Whiting, Indiana.

By the turn of the century, oil was discovered as far west as California.

1905: Crude Oil Pipelines

At this point in history the oil business was shifting from kerosene lamp oil to gasoline.

Edison's electric light bulb replaced oil lamps in many of the cities reducing the kerosene market but Henry Ford had changed the landscape with mass produced automobiles.

Crude oil pipelines carrying oil from the prolific fields in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to the refineries in the East began to cross the country.

1900-1915: The Government Acts

By now Standard Oil controlled over 80 percent of the world’s refining and transportation. John D. Rockefeller was the most powerful man in the world.

In 1890 the US government passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and an energetic young president, Theodore Roosevelt, challenged the Standard Oil Trust.

Pipeline regulation went hand in hand in 1906 as the Hepburn Act made interstate pipelines common carriers who were required to offer their services at equal cost to all shippers.

In 1912 the anti-trust litigation was final and Standard Oil dissolved into seven regional oil companies.



Which is Now...

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In 1913, the Valuation Act was the first attempt at Federal involvement in US pipeline ratemaking.

1917: Crude Oil Pipelines

By the advent of WW I, crude oil pipelines where traversing much of the nation.

1920s: Pipeline Mileage Triples

During the 1920s, driven by the growth of the automobile industry, total U.S. pipeline mileage grew to over 115,000 miles

1935: Population Shifts (Product Lines)

By the 30’s, the population continued to move west across the Mississippi River and the first product pipelines where built from Whiting, St. Louis and Kansas City to the west.

1945: Product Lines Grow During WWII

Throughout WW II, product systems grew rapidly along the eastern seaboard. 48 US oil tankers were sunk in the early stages of the war showing the US vulnerability to such attack. This quickly led to the expansion of land based large diameter pipelines carrying crude oil and products from areas such as Texas and Oklahoma to East Coast consumer states.

Near the end of the war, pipeline regulation became the responsibility of the US Interstate Commerce Commission who introduced the notion of reasonable returns in the 8 percent to 10 percent range.

1950s-1960s: The Search for Oil Expands Overseas

In the 50’s and 60’s, the balance of supply was shifting rapidly.

For the first time the US was a net importer of oil.

U.S. oil companies became major explorers for oil in far flung lands.

Major discoveries were made by U.S. companies in: Egypt, Argentina, Venezuela, Trinidad, West Africa, the North Sea, Western Canada, the Caspian Sea, the Middle East and offshore China.

1950s-1960s: Shifting crude supply

As lower 48 oil production declined and petroleum supply came increasingly from overseas and Canada, the pipeline industry responded with major industry systems from the US Gulf Coast to the Mid West, Western Canada to the Mid West, and California to the US West Coast.

In 1954, Stanolind, the Indiana Standard pipeline company, became the largest liquid pipeline carrier in North America. A position it held until the most recent Enbridge expansion.

1968: The population Moves West

The relentless move westward continued and product pipelines followed. Also, the rise of import refineries on the US Gulf Coast led to the construction of Colonial pipeline to supply the eastern seaboard.

Colonial was the largest privately financed undertaking in US history in 1968.

1970 - 1977: The Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS)

Following the discovery of the Alaskan Prudhoe Bay oil field in 1968, pipeline designers faced the challenge of building a pipeline to carry 1.6 million barrels per day of oil across 800 miles of frigid, snow covered mountains and frozen tundra.

Completed in 1977, the Trans Alaska Pipeline carried over 2 million barrels per day in 1988 and continues to deliver approximately 1 million barrels per day.

1970s - 1990s: The Advent of Specialty Pipes

Modern pipelines became increasingly versatile as they were called upon to:

  • gather oil and gas over one mile beneath the ocean surface
  • transport supercritical fluid carbon dioxide for territory oil recovery
  • carry natural gas liquids for growing regional heating and olefins industries
  • and transport specialty chemicals between chemical plants and refineries.

Pipelines continue to play a major role in the petroleum industry, providing safe, reliable and economically transportation. As the need for more energy increases and population growth continues away from supply centers, pipelines are need to continue to bring energy to you.\

From the early days of wooden trenches and wooden barrels, the pipeline industry has grown and employed the latest technology in pipeline operations and maintenance. Today the industry uses sophisticated controls and computers systems, advanced pipe materials and corrosion prevention techniques.



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