Agricultural Research Division of IANR


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Extension is a Division of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln cooperating with the Counties and the United States Department of Agriculture


© 2016, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska—Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


Since 2005, increased United States oil and natural gas production and increased oil output from Canadian oil sands has outpaced existing transportation infrastructure. As a result, there are plans to increase both natural gas and oil pipelines in the U.S. Although increased production of hydrocarbons has economic benefit, there are concerns about leaks and spills from petroleum pipelines and their potential environmental impacts. There has been particular concern about protecting Nebraska’s water resources from possible leaks of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension, the permit application for which was denied by the U.S. Department of State on November 6, 2015. TransCanada responded to this action by initiating an international arbitration case in January 2016, under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Regardless of one’s viewpoint of the Keystone XL project proposal, petroleum pipelines are an undeniably important part of our transportation infrastructure. They provide heat for homes, fuel for transportation, and chemicals used to produce products ranging from fertilizer to plastics.

According to the Nebraska Pipeline Association, there are more than 25 million miles (40 million kilometers) of petroleum pipelines in the United States, and these pipelines are operated by more than 3,000 companies. Nebraska Pipeline Association member companies alone operate more than 102,000 miles (164,000 kilometers) of transmission pipeline in the state and do business in 80 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Residential natural gas distribution pipelines are ever-present in much of the U.S. and distribute natural gas to customers in 79 counties in Nebraska. Large interstate petroleum transmission lines cross under large parts of Nebraska and surrounding states (Figure 1).