We want to answer your questions and give you the information you need about pipelines.
Long before our company, Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P., started working on this pipeline, we knew it was important to share the story of who we are and why we’re building this pipeline with the communities around it.
In some cases, the transportation of liquid energy does not have a great reputation. Pipelines have become the symbol of the oil and gas industry, of disrupting nature for consumerism. They’re easy to blame because they hit home; building them requires going into communities and temporarily disturbing land. More people are focused on creating a more sustainable environment, and it’s hard to see where pipelines fit into that.
As long as people continue to drive cars, heat their homes, and live everyday life the way they do now, there will be a demand to move energy where it’s needed. Products we use all the time are derived from petroleum products, including ink in pens, nail polish, purses, life jackets, rugs, carpets, and so much more. Pipelines are the safest and most environmentally conscious way to move the products we need. The other options, rail and truck, have proven much more challenging to both people and the environment. We see our role as providing a safer way to serve the demand for oil, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel than exists now.
We want to be open about what this pipeline construction process consists of and how it will affect your community. That’s the idea behind the post you clicked on and this page you’re on now:
We want to provide you with the information you need.
We are Magellan Midstream Partners, the company building and operating this pipeline. We are a publicly traded company that moves, stores, and distributes petroleum products. We have the longest refined petroleum pipeline system in the U.S., transporting primarily gasoline and diesel fuel.
When it comes to this pipeline, our role is similar to that of a turnpike authority. The pipeline is like a toll road — it’s a faster, more efficient way to move from one place to another. Similar to toll fees, Magellan is paid small tariffs — an average of four cents per gallon — by companies using this pipeline. These rates stay the same for at least one year, and rates are set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Pipeline construction is a long process with many different steps, but the work is done efficiently and meticulously in an assembly line-like fashion. Because so much of the construction process is done several feet underground and out of sight, we wanted to show you the process from start to finish.
Magellan’s real estate team meets face-to-face with landowners whose property will be impacted by pipeline construction and negotiate with them for use of their land.
Workers clear the land of trees and boulders and make the land as flat as possible to work with.
Workers first clear the topsoil, then the subsoil. These are kept separate to maintain the soil’s nutrients. Regulations require three feet of soil cover on top of the pipeline, but Magellan digs deeply enough to ensure at least four feet of cover to account for soil erosion in the future.
Lengths of pipe are strung out in a line along the construction route for more efficient welding.
Workers weld pipe joints together by hand, then coat those welds with a finish that prevents rusting and corrosion. They check for holes in the coating using a test method called “jeeping.”
There are a number of tests we perform to make sure the pipeline is as safe and strong as possible:
Hydrotesting uses pressurized water to find weak areas in welds or piping. Direct Current Voltage Gradient looks for bad coating in the pipeline by detecting electric current flowing out of the pipeline.
X-rays, as mentioned above, are used to study every single weld in the pipeline. Deformation tools and devices, which are often called “smart pigs,” look for dents and other bends in the metal.
After replacing the native subsoil and topsoils, workers plant grass seed or whichever crop the landowner chooses. Our goal is to restore the land to its original state.
Word is catching on:
Texas is the place to live, work, and play.
As the state’s economy and job market grows, Texas’ population is also exploding. In fact, every year for the last decade or so, Texas has seen the largest annual population growth in the entire country.
More people moving in to Texas means a higher demand for oil — more cars on the road, more homes lived in. This stretch of pipeline will help move energy where it’s needed most, to serve these growing populations.
It would take 850 semi trucks per day to move the same amount of energy as this 170,000-barrel-per-day pipeline.
There are four main options when it comes to moving energy within the United States: tanker trucks, rail cars, marine vessels, and pipelines. Of these, pipelines are consistently the safest and most efficient way to move energy.
Trucks are the most dangerous way to transport oil because they use the same roads and highways as the general public. Trains are safer, but can still derail, harming the public. Pipelines can’t wreck or derail, causing fewer injuries and deaths, and ultimately, are the best option for public safety. 
Because pipelines carry so much more oil than the alternatives, any spill from a pipeline could be potentially greater in volume. However, trucks are by far the likeliest to spill oil and pipelines the least. In fact, trucks are 10 times more likely to spill or cause injuries than rail, and rail cars are 3.5 times more so than pipelines.
This pipeline can transport up to 170,000 barrels of refined petroleum product per day. It would take 850 trucks on the road and 240 rail cars traveling every single day to move the same amount of energy as this pipeline. Those alternatives, especially transportation by truck, potentially have massive harmful impact on public highways, air emissions, and traffic.
Generally, a cheaper way to move oil means lower prices at the pump. Pipelines are the most cost-efficient way to move energy. It costs an average of about $1.68 per barrel to move refined petroleum product by Magellan pipeline. It’s $10 to $15 per barrel to move oil by train, and as much as $20 per barrel for trucks, depending on the distance traveled. These differences in price are often reflected in consumer gas prices.
Oil moves through pipelines about as quickly as people walk — 3 to 6 miles per hour.
It probably doesn’t feel good to see the land in your community being disrupted. We promise to restore the land to as close to its original state as possible. That’s part of every project we work on: after the pipeline is lowered in, we replace the native subsoil and topsoil. Then, we plant grass seed. Our goal is that once construction is finished, the property will look the same as it did before it began.
There are a lot of steps in the pipeline construction process, and a lot of rules and regulations for each step. We often go above and beyond these requirements. These standards are designed to keep companies accountable and ensure their pipelines are as safe. But our entire company wants to hold ourselves to an even higher set of standards.
Here are a few examples of how Magellan delivers on these promises:
Long before construction begins on a pipeline like this one, Magellan’s Environmental Team surveys the land for different route options, researching potential long-term and short-term effects on animal species and vegetation in that area. If they discover the proposed construction route would be too disruptive to those species, they’ll avoid that area and choose a different route.
In fact, we have to do our homework and show that we won’t be disturbing environmentally sensitive areas during construction in order to receive the permits we need. After construction, Magellan’s team restores the land by planting grass seed or another native plant that was growing on the land prior to construction. The goal is to restore the land to as close to its original state as possible.
There’s a small team of people that monitors and tests the entire length of a pipeline — in some cases, hundreds of miles — looking for tiny nicks in the steel using what’s called the DCVG test. It’s one of several final tests we perform on the pipeline before it goes into service. This isn’t required, but it’s something we do to make absolutely sure our pipelines are as safe and strong as possible.
The test finds defects in the pipeline’s coating by impressing an electrical current on the pipe and looking for any escaping electricity. If it detects any, it means the current escaped through some kind of defect.
Some of the scratches they find are so tiny, you can barely see them. Crews analyze every detection and repair anything that could reasonably impact the integrity of the pipeline. Then, the test continues, ensuring no weak spots in the pipeline steel.
Using technology very similar to the kind that’s used to X-ray fractured bones, our team X-rays to inspect welds in the pipeline. While industry regulations require that companies X-ray a minimum of 10 percent of welds, Magellan X-rays every single weld.
We do this to verify the integrity of every weld and ensure precise specifications are met.
This pipeline is 20 inches in diameter; its walls are approximately one half-inch thick.
January 12, 2019
Will this pipeline leak?
Sean T, Austin TX
We cannot guarantee this pipeline will never leak. That’s because a leading cause of pipeline leaks is third-party damage and we are focused on educating the public about the dangers of digging before you call the 811 service. But we can guarantee that pipeline leaks are incredibly rare. In fact, pipelines deliver 99.999% of crude oil and petroleum products to their destinations without incident. We do everything in our power to prevent a leak, from using the best U.S. steel to putting the pipeline through many tests and inspections before operation.
This pipeline, once completed, will be monitored 24/7. Operators can detect leaks , and in the rare event that a leak is detected, Magellan has an emergency plan in place. Workers will shut the pipeline down, control the spill, enlist help from expert crews to clean the spill, and restore the land to its original state. Of course, Magellan would assume financial responsibility for any damage and cleanup efforts.
January 14, 2019
What will this pipeline do for my community?
Ashley M, The Woodlands
There are some economic benefits to this pipeline. Magellan pays ad valorem taxes in counties through which the pipeline travels. These are taxes based on assessed value of our infrastructure, which go into your communities’ budgets and fund public schools. Magellan will keep paying these taxes as long as the pipeline is in use.
Throughout the construction process, the pipeline also creates many indirect jobs for services such as maintenance, cleaning, landscape care, and construction. Magellan also buys locally for a wide range of products related to pipeline constructions such as safety vests, hard hats, gloves, as well as materials like hay, rock, gravel, and fencing. We also spend dollars locally during construction for gasoline, hotels, and restaurants.
Once the pipeline is complete, communities may see lower gas prices at the pump.
February 5, 2019
With the soaring economy, do you have issues finding qualified craftsmen? I keep seeing articles on labor shortages. This construction must be done safely for the crews and the property from beginning to end. I agree it is the best way to transport as I do not like driving around tank trucks and we don't have enough rails to move your product. Please be safe.
Sharon L., Houston TX
Sharon, thank you so much for your question and support. Safety is our first and foremost priority, and it is top of mind throughout every step of construction.
Labor shortages are certainly an issue facing not only our industry but many trade industries across the board. This is largely because veteran tradespeople are retiring, and young people graduating from high school are less interested in vocational jobs, writes the Washington Post.
There are large-scale efforts across trade industries to recruit, train, and retain the next generation of craftsmen and women. These efforts include creating in-house training programs; investing in good work culture and competitive wages; and sparking interest in trade work among young people in high schools, community colleges, and vocational centers.
Magellan works with many contractors for its pipeline projects, including this one — expert welders, heavy machine operators, truck drivers, and more. These are specialized workers who are trained and equipped to work on pipelines like this one, with whom we have developed solid working relationships. We are familiar with their quality of work and we consistently verify they are upholding the same expectations of safety and quality that we do. We are committed to working with the best people to build the safest pipelines.