How did the pipeline

The battle for oil pipelines has a longer history than you thought.


Shortly after Colonel Edwin Drake extracted oil from a depth of 20 meters in Titusville, Pennsylvania, on August 27, 1859, he had a problem. He had nowhere to store the dark green liquid, and there was no convenient way to transport it. Before that, people collected small amounts of oil from puddles and pits, squeezing it from wet blankets, scraping it off the boards and collecting it in buckets, and kept it in baths and kegs from under the temples. But Drake's well produced 3,700 liters per day, and subsequent ones began to give even more. The nearest railway was 60 km to the north, in Corrie, near the New York state border. The roads there, the forest transport primers, were neglected. So half a decade before the Atlantic and Great Western Railways arrived from the west, and the Alleghean Railway arrived from Pittsburgh, Drake and the oilmen following him, who had so much oil on their heads, filled hundreds of thousands of oak barrels and delivered them to the oil refinery plants on horseback and barges. It is difficult to say which of the two methods was worse.

People in high rubber boots delivered their horses by a ton of oil (six barrels per cart) 25 km to the south in Oil City, where the barrels were dragged onto barges along the Allegheny River. Auxiliaries took $ 3- $ 4 for one barrel, which was almost equal to the cost of its contents. Fluctuations in the cost of delivery depended on the depth of mud mixed with oil, which they had to go through. Voznich was a lot, and they had enough work; in the early years of the day, the Titusville Bridge could cross up to 2,000 carts. They were also rude and demanding. Journalist Ayda Tarbel called them tyrants and plutocrats.

The oil creek, a local river, was not big enough to transport oil and get rid of drivers. She needed improvement. Boatmen zapruzhivali its tributaries and loaded barrels on a punt. Twenty barrels climbed into the smallest one, 1000 into the biggest one. Every week, on the “flood day,” oilmen opened dams and sent oil down through joyful but dangerous water streams. 20,000 barrels traveled south. Facing each other and with the shores, boats periodically dumped the contents into the water. On the usual “flood day,” about 1000 barrels were lost. Oil leaked into the stream and painted the banks all the way to the Allegheny River. From there, the surviving barrels calmly, on large barges, traveled to Pittsburgh.


There was oil on the roads, or on the water, there was nothing for the coopers to complain about. They were busy no worse than drivers. By 1870, when as much oil was being produced in the region every few minutes as one Drake well had once produced, one cooper workshop produced 1000 barrels per day. These productions built pyramids of barrels with a height of several horses. Coopers was a lot. There were more coopers producing 160-liter barrels — each carrying the company's stamp on the top — more than oil workers.

When in 1862, finally, the railway appeared, the barrels were loaded on flat cars, and they dangled here and there, and proceeded en route. 150 out of every 160 liters reached the end. From 1865, oil was poured into special wooden tanks that held 7,500 liters each. This simplified transportation, but did not make it safer - the risk of fire remained very large. One of the oil producers, V. Kh. Fityan, recalled in 1906: "And the day did not pass without anyone killing or crippling." In 1869, wooden barrels were replaced with large metal cylinders with partition walls of the same volume, and soon they doubled in size. But there was still too much oil. “A person who has a well in a thousand barrels in his hands was in a difficult position,” wrote Tarbel. Raymond Voss Bacon in his treatise of 1916: "The American gas industry" wrote even better: "The volume of the gas industry was forced to find a way to transport even cheaper than the railway."

And for this just suited the pipeline.

The first oil pipeline existed only in imagination. A brigadier general from West Virginia, Samuel Karns, who worked for the engineering troops, possessed a salt well in Burnyn Springs. When he began to extract crude oil, he proposed to build a pipeline of pipes with a diameter of 15 cm and a length of 55 km going down the slope to the Ohio River in Parkersburg. This was in November 1860. It was never built. A year later, one man from Iiri proposed building a wooden pipeline from Titusville to Oil City. He was also not built.

An oil worker from Pennsylvania, JL Hutchinson, first built the real pipeline in 1862. He walked along the hill to the oil refinery, and worked on the principle of siphon: while the release was below the inlet, the liquid flowed. But in fact it did not work, because the pipe was not tight. Most people generally believed that pumping oil through pipes was a speculative scheme, that the people financing this business went crazy, and that it would not burn out. It seemed impossible to connect hundreds of pieces of metal without leaks.

The following summer, Hutchinson tried again, building a pipeline at 3 km. Although it was leaking, the combination of pumps and pipes worked well enough for the Humboldt Mining and Refining Company to announce success. Her avenue from 1864 states: “An oil canal was built from the Tarr farm to the Humboldt oil refinery, capable of transmitting 800 barrels of oil in 24 hours. The company can now pump oil from Oil Creek through the hills with iron pipes, for half the cost of past shipments. ” The newspaper Harper's reported on the innovation of pumping oil through the pipes. Hutchinson's next attempt failed. When next year he built an oil pipeline with a length of 5 km, from the well to the railway, it flowed so strongly that it didn’t matter how much oil was being pumped through it.

When Samuel Van Sikel offered to invest his money earned on oil into an 8-kilometer oil pipeline, he was ridiculed. His friends discouraged him, pitied him, and called the idea stupid. The strangers made him a hero of jokes. They asked: "Do you want to gird the world?" Or "Can you make the water flow up?" He was so sick that he ate alone and left through the back door.

A. V. Smiley, who later worked as a timekeeper and cashier at the Van Sikel oil pipeline - which was crowned with success - believed that success was due to genius, but also because of ambition and self-worth. In fact, everything depended on the meticulousness. Another pioneer in oil production recalled: “It is not surprising that so many early oil pipelines based on optimism went bankrupt. It's amazing that someone even managed to avoid the fate of many. ”

When in 1865, Van Sikel finished his pipeline of 5 cm of pipes, twisted together, stretching from the well to the railway, he earned. People began to pay attention to him. With single piston steam pumps Reed & Cogswell, its oil pipeline had several times more flow capacity than the best Hutchinson specimens. He performed the work of 300 teams that worked 10 hours a day. The Pithole Record called it a “significant novelty,” and later “one of the most wonderful of many miracles.” Tarbel called the day that the Van Sikel oil pipeline began operating as the second most important event in the history of Pennsylvania, after the day the oil was discovered. She wrote that he began the revolution.

The first successful one — that is, not particularly leaking — the oil pipeline promised to reduce the price of oil transportation to $ 1 per barrel, and he also promised to leave the drivers out of work. This small pipe threatened the whole industry, and they fought against it. They successfully pushed through the ban on the construction of a wooden oil pipeline in 1861, and now they have placed signs around the city condemning the Van Sikel pipe. Then they attacked her with picks. They chained her and tore her down with the help of horses. After the sheriff sent armed assistants to guard the pipe, Smiley and his colleagues were threatened with a "move to a warmer climate." The drivers, enraged by the development of events, sent an anonymous letter threatening the head of the oil company. At 2 o'clock in the morning, an armed crowd of drivers took by storm one of the company's tanks and set it on fire. Someone sent a telegram to the governor asking for help. Van Sikel sent an order for guns in New York. The railway workers got angry too. Employees of the West-Penn railway company, feeling threatened by the pipe crossing their paths, tore it apart. The pipe was laid again, and they destroyed it again.

Oilmen surrendered and agreed with the drivers on the transportation of oil from the first half of their pipeline, through railway tracks in carts for 25 barrels, into the second half of the pipeline. In such a dual manner, they could move up to 8,000 barrels per day. As a result, the drivers began to massively leave the city. Soon, the companies involved in oil pipelines raised their prices, just a little less than the prices of departed drivers.

The earliest oil pipelines went from wells to local refineries, and then, when John D. Rockefeller consolidated the refining process, right on the railways. There were dozens of them, and they walked parallel to each other, and they were built by companies like Oil Creek Tube Works. By 1872, 1,200 wells in Pennsylvania produced 6 million barrels of oil per year, and all of this was transmitted through pipelines. Soon they began to compete with the railways and, following the example of Rockefeller, consolidate. The first was the Fairview Pipe Line. It became the United Pipeline Association, and eventually became part of Standard Oil. By 1874, she had a line of pipes with a diameter of 10 cm and a length of 100 km to Pittsburgh. By 1875, the Pennsylvania Transportation Company received permission to create a pipeline across the state, to the sea, almost 500 km to the east. But first there were pipelines in Cleveland, then in Buffalo. And finally, to New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. But in the race to the Atlantic, Tide Water won, ending the 15-cm pipeline from Bradford to Bayonne by 1879. By 1907, the next generation had built enough 15 and 20 centimeters of pipelines to encircle the globe twice.

In order to achieve the transfer of oil over such distances, companies have calculated how far and to what height pumps can pump oil. One pump could not cope with pumping oil through the Allegane Valley. Therefore, long distances were divided into gaps, and storage and pumping stations were built along pipelines. A chain is obtained from the links, and a pipeline is obtained from the combined sections. And it became easier to join the sections when manufacturers learned how to make a normal thread.


For the laying of these huge pipes required a large physique and a strong back. The pipes, divided into sections of 5 or 6 m, were dragged into the forest with the help of horses or bulls, or on a cart, or on a sleigh. Pipes, and tools to work with them, were heavy. To assemble a rolled iron pipe with bolts, the foreman struck the end of the pipe, then another person turned it with a huge key called the Klein tongs. Their length was comparable to the height of a man, and they weighed the same. Blow, turn - one, then another. In the forest, workers laid a pipeline in a trench. In the swamps they concluded it in cement. So there were long days and long weeks. Neil Makelvey, author of the short story "The National Transit Co., Standard Oil's Great Pipeline Company," wrote that it was like serving in the army. “Most of the workers were cheeky, arrogant, arrogant,” he wrote. “In their best days they were hard working and a lot of bad drinkers.” Farmers treated them with sympathy, but sent their daughters to live with their aunts in the city when they were led by the pipeline. ” Another historian, P.C. Boyle, wrote that people "brutely achieved results that today look incredible, and paid a terrible price for it."

After the pipeline was collected, buried and filled with oil, walkers were sent along it with checks for leaks. They wore long leather coats and high leather boots — to protect them from the bites of copper-headed and rattlesnakes, which were there “like lice on a silky dog” —they were looking for puddles. Finding a puddle, the walker tapped on a parallel telegraph line message with a pocket relay, and notified the office of the foreman. People and tools were discharged, a pipe was dug out and repaired. Walkers, in the manner of hermits, remained to live in huts along the pipeline. In the spring, many found that their pipelines laid in the river broke down due to flooding or ice. By telegraph they requested supplies and people who were fiddling with icy water and repairing the pipe. They walked and walked, crossing the river in the paddle boats tied on the shore. In the pockets of their coats, they carried canned beef, stews, and soup. And although they walked with sticks and wore hats, their work was not easy: if a decision was made that the walker did not do his job properly, they could recover the cost of oil losses.

Not only walkers worked on the pipelines. Techniques with brass tools that do not spark, kept the pipes clean. Meters with calibrated sticks were measured and recorded volumes of oil in tanks standing along the line. The transfer of oil through the state required voluminous choreography. They searched for water in the oil, checked the temperature of the oil, correcting the calculations if necessary. Since the tanks were often struck by lightning, they often engaged in extinguishing fires. They did it with wet carpets or turf. If this did not help, they used cannonballs, directing them to the bottom of the tank. After draining the tank it was easy to put out and repair it.

Every couple of kilometers at the pumping stations, other people carried out the work necessary for the flow of oil through the pipes. The stokers threw coal into the 50-hp Woodbury & Booth boilers that fed the pumps. Operators ensured that the boilers had water flowing at the required pressure. The workers serviced and repaired the Long John engines. Station engineers trained in hydraulics watched the work. Telegraphs sent messages to district brigade leaders who sent messages to the central office. This has changed the way news is collected. The reporter from Oil City Derrick no longer needed to drive the horse from well to well, and talk with pump workers and drillers. He could just go to the office and wait for a telegram.

Since Pennsylvanian oil was light (little wax) and did not cause corrosion (little sulfur), the company's early pipeline managers were not particularly tense, at least in terms of pipe maintenance. By necessity, they cleaned the pipes, pushing carpets through them. But such attempts gave little. By 1870, a round scraper was invented. The early models had leather cups; by 1930, they were made of rubber. Workers on the pipeline began to call these things pigs. Before that, they were called nimble devils.

The origin of the term refers to another device from the early oil industry. To increase production, people undermined explosives at the bottom of wells. Nitroglycerin served as an explosive in containers called torpedoes. Colonel Roberts, who patented the process in 1862, torpedoed a “dry hole” in 1866 and received 20 barrels per day. He did it again, and quadrupled the way out. More explosions - more oil, so it was thought, so if he started with small tin cans in a quarter-liter, 30 cm long, then soon these cans grew to 3 meters and they already contained 200 liters.

Nitroglycerin was delivered to the wells in a special cart operated by an experienced driver. One man, who was driving a nitroglycerin cart, jumped into a few centimeters of unevenness and disappeared. What remained of him, as the writer later reported, could fit in a cigar box. But the shooter had the most dangerous job. After the torpedo was filled and lowered to the bottom of the well, his task was to blow it up, dropping a five-kilogram shell on it. Shells called nimble devil. A good blast, experts working with oil wrote, forced the earth to shake from one end of the field to the other, and nearly threw Bradford, Pennsylvania towards the district of Qataragus in New York State. Therefore, the quick devil - after you threw the projectile, you had to run faster than the devil.

For the most part, modern oil pipelines are not very different from the first pipelines built in Pennsylvania. Most of them are steel welded together, but there are also iron pipes. There are pumping stations and storage tanks. Dozens of companies make pipeline pigs, and now they do not just scrape the pipes, cleaning them, but also inspect for rust with the help of ultrasound or a magnetic field. Through computerized systems, operators monitor flow rates and pressures — but the combination of man and machine leaves many possibilities for the same leaks that Hutchinson suffered from. Therefore, the walkers continue their work today, someone is in cars, and someone is still walking or riding a horse.

As then, it remains true now that building something is one thing, and maintaining it in working condition is another.

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