The U.S. crude oil pipeline network, a key component of energy infrastructure, has prompted vigorous public debate. Crude pipelines cross extensive land areas and waterways; environmentalists point to potential harm to land and water due to crude spills. Furthermore, refineries process crude to produce transportation fuels; these fuels produce greenhouse gases in transportation services, contributing to global warming. Hence environmentalists express concern that the construction of pipelines that extend the existing pipeline network, as well as the continued operation of existing pipelines, should be questioned on the basis of environmental harm to land and water as well as climate risk.
This study references a particular pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), to bring to light these environmental, climate, and safety concerns in specific terms. Made operational in 2017, the DAPL connects the Bakken basin to an oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois. The DAPL transits an extensive land route, about 1,170 miles, crossing waterways including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Operating steadily at capacity (750,000 barrels/day), the DAPL would deliver crude volume equivalent to roughly 3-4% of total crude and petroleum products supplied to the U.S. in 2019 (20.5 million barrels/day, with derived transportation fuels generating roughly 2.4 billion metric tons/year of greenhouse gas emissions – U.S. Energy Information Administration).