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Piping and pipeline systems

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Once oil and gas are located and the well is successfully drilled and completed, the product must be transported to a facility where it can be produced/treated, stored, processed, refined, or transferred for eventual sale.

Typical system

Fig. 1 is a simplified diagram that illustrates the typical, basic “wellhead to sales” concept.

The typical system begins at the well flow-control device on the producing “wing(s)” of the wellhead tree and includes:

  • The well “flowline”
  • Production/treating/storage equipment
  • Custody-transfer measurement equipment
  • The gathering or sales pipeline

The piping and pipeline systems typically associated with producing wells include, but are not limited to:

  • The well flowline
  • Interconnecting equipment piping within the production “battery”
  • The gathering or sales pipeline
  • The transmission pipeline

A brief description of the associated piping/pipeline systems is given next.

Well flowline

The well flowline, or simply flowline, is the first “pipeline” system connected to the wellhead. The flowline carries total produced fluids (e.g., oil, gas, and production water) from the well to the first piece of production equipment—typically a production separator. The flowline may carry the well-production fluids to a common production battery, a gathering pipeline system, process facility, or other.

Gathering/sales pipeline

Interconnecting piping includes the piping between the various pieces of production/treating equipment such as:

  • Production separators
  • Line heaters
  • Oil heaters
  • Pump units
  • Storage tanks
  • Gas dehydrators

The piping systems may also include:

  • Headers
  • Fuel systems
  • Other utility piping
  • Pressure-relief/flare systems

The pipe that delivers the well production to some intermediate or terminal location is the gathering or sales pipeline. The gathering pipeline literally “gathers” the production from producing wells and conveys the production to a collection system, a processing facility, custody-transfer (sales) point, or other.

Transmission pipeline

The transmission pipeline is a “cross-country” pipeline that is specifically designed to transport petroleum products long distances. The transmission pipeline collects the specific petroleum products from many “supply” sources along the pipeline (such as gathering pipelines) and “delivers” the product to one or more end users. There are three general categories of transmission pipelines:

  • Natural gas - carry only natural gas
  • “Product” - carry a number of processed or refined petroleum products such as:
  • Processed natural-gas liquids (e.g., butane and propane)
  • Gasoline
  • Diesel
  • Refined fuel oils
  • Crude oil - convey unrefined crude oil from producing areas to large storage areas or directly to refineries


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See also


Pipeline pigging

Pipeline design consideration and standards

Pressure drop evaluation along pipelines