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

In the 1950s and 60s, the balance of supply was shifting rapidly.

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.


   world map

1950s-1960s: Shifting crude supply

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

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

Colonial Pipeline was the largest privately financed undertaking in U.S. 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.  It delivered approximately 579 thousand barrels per day in 2012.


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 super critical fluid such, as carbon dioxide for oil recovery.
  • Carry natural gas liquids for growing regional heating and olefins industries.
  • Transport specialty chemicals between chemical plants and refineries.

1992 - In 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act (EPAct), which required FERC to establish a "simplified and generally applicable" ratemaking methodology for oil pipelines. In response, the FERC issued a rulemaking in which it adopted the industrywide oil pipeline rate indexing methodology. The indexing methodology is the most frequently used approach to set oil pipeline rates.  FERC reviews the rate index every five years.


   Multiple Pipelines


2010s - Today: The North American Energy Renaissance

Dramatic gains in crude oil and natural gas production in the US and Western Canada reshaped energy markets.  This energy renaissance produced a series of major pipeline projects carrying crude oil, natural gas liquids, and natural gas.  

As a result, some pipelines have been reversed to carry product in the opposite direction, others converted from one type of service to another (i.e. from refined products to crude oil) and some made changes in capacity. To accommodate capacity changes, power levels at pump stations have increased to safely transport additional levels of product on existing pipelines.