Pipelines in the US When SHTF – Could They Be An Option?

Pipelines in the US

In a true longterm grid-down scenario, those who are prepared with the right tools might have the opportunity to provide their family or group with much-needed fuel for survival.  This article will cover the basics of how a system of pipelines in the US can be identified and accessed with little information and the right tools.

First, I must say that under normal circumstances we should never, ever tamper with any type of oil and gas equipment, pipeline or facilities. There is a high risk that one could inadvertently cause a system shutdown, an explosion, or a multi-million dollar product release that could endanger lives and property. This includes pipelines, pump or compressor stations, valve settings, etc. Everything that flows through wellheads, pipelines, or refineries, will in some way kill you!


Pipelines in the USBut in the event that there has been a longterm SHTF or TEOTWAWKI event, and the refineries are no longer manned by their operations staff, or the field equipment is no longer being maintained and controlled, things will begin to fail on our oil and gas systems. And most products will eventually stop flowing.

If no fuel is being refined, then eventually there will be nothing to be trucked to gas stations. That is if gas stations are even still operational. I am in no way suggesting that anyone (especially someone who has no knowledge of what they are messing with) tamper with or attempt to remove anything from oil and gas locations or out of pipelines, even if they are out of operation. But it will inevitably begin to happen if things ever fall apart and remain in shambles for very long. So this article is intended to bring to light a few things that should be considered for safety.


Our major refineries are a very valuable resource, not only to the companies that own and operate them, but important to our nation on many different levels. There is a good reason that refineries all over the world become military targets during wartime.  The reason is the loss of oil and gas production and/or refining capabilities is one of the fastest ways to cripple an enemy nation. Therefore, regardless of the level of the disaster facing our country, at least some of these facilities will no doubt be guarded by the military, private security, or someone. So looting of any type, in or around both coastal and inland refineries could prove to be fatal. Also, the more these facilities are impacted by looting and damage during a shutdown of the type I’m talking about, the more difficult it will be and longer it will take to bring the facility back online when life begins to return to normal.


Crude oil, natural gas, refined gasoline, refined diesel, propane, and water are just a few of the products that flow through pipelines all over the world. But the few listed here, in my opinion, will be the most sought after during a long term disaster event. And even after refineries, cryogenic plants, liquid pump stations, and compressor stations have stopped operating to move these products, the products will remain in the pipelines. Most pipelines do have several points along its route where a valve setting or other type of riser comes up above ground, that someone could open up to collect some of the product inside. But anyone who attempts this should know that there is a very high probability that the pipeline still contains very high pressures, even though the pumps might not be operational. Anything like propane or natural gas in its gaseous state would require specialized fittings and equipment in order to capture the product into propane tanks or any similar container. These fittings could possibly be purchased from a propane distributor or online. Liquid pipelines such as crude oil, gasoline, diesel or natural gas liquids could be removed from above-ground valves with the proper pipe fittings and a fuel hose.


OSHA and several state agencies mandate the proper marking and signage of pipelines and their products in the United States. The pipeline is required to have a “pipeline marker” that includes the name and contact information of the company who owns or operates the line and/or it’s contents. The markers must be placed at a specific distance from each other for the entire length of the pipeline. The pipeline markers are then required to be color-coded to signify the product inside. For example, a yellow marker indicates a natural gas line, purple is usually marking produced water that comes from oil wells (which is absolutely not drinkable.) Blue markers indicate freshwater, red markers could either indicate a fire suppressing liquid (like what’s inside a fire hydrant) or it could be marking electricity. Colors may vary a bit from place to place but the color-coding system is supposed to be international. To find out more about the color-coding system in your area, there are several online resources. One being your state’s one call system.


Pipelines in the USThis is where all things oil and gas begin. At a well that has been drilled hundreds or thousands of feet into the ground. Pipe has then been inserted into the hole and so on. Again, everything on a well pad or production location will almost always have pressure behind it, everything will hurt or kill you. Most of these locations only have either crude oil or raw natural gas. Most production locations also have automated metering equipment that is powered by a 12v car battery connected to a solar panel. ( …..just saying……do what you will with that info 🙂

This automation usually only serves the purpose of sending information to a main network somewhere else about how much the well produced that day. Usually this isn’t necessary to the well or entire system coming back online after it has been down. Occasionally, the automation can control an electronic valve that can be operated remotely and will affect the operation of the entire system if removed or damaged.

On an oil production location, there are normally large tanks that store crude oil and in another tank, the produced water. All tanks are supposed to be properly labeled. These tanks also contain flammable vapor and have the possibility to contain poisonous gasses like hydrogen sulfide that will kill you.


If the removal of products from any of the places I’ve named becomes necessary, and if you’re reading this, then you must believe that day could come. Then you should consider making a plan now as to where you will remove product from and make sure you have the proper fittings and hoses to do so. The proper fittings will make it much safer than something thrown together out of junk laying around.

You should also consider wearing goggles, chemical gloves, and Tyvek suits if possible, or some type of chemical apron. Anything that will keep oil and other liquids out of your eyes, mouth and off of your skin and clothing. Never, under any circumstances should you try to knock a hole in any type of pipe or oil and gas equipment to collect what is inside. This could result in you taking several hundred pounds of liquid or gas pressure to the face and/or starting a fire with more pressure behind it than you can get away from.

Again, I’m not writing this to explain how to remove products that could be used in a disaster situation, ( even though this would be a great source for obtaining lots of fuel after gas stations are empty) nor do I condone doing so. But if things get bad enough for long enough, it is inevitable that people will begin to do this very thing. Hopefully, if that person ends up being you who read this article, you gained a bit of knowledge about how to do it safely.

This is a guest post by Derek Hayes.

Pipelines in the US when the SHTF

10 thoughts on “Pipelines in the US When SHTF – Could They Be An Option?”

  1. The best thing you can do is to keep away from HP pipe lines unless you “Know what your doing and have the knowledge and the right tools to try something.” . It is a good way to get yourself and others killed or maimed. I spent 30 years working in the Oil and Gas industry. I have also worked in the chemical industry. You could get into poison gasses or liquids that will burn you or choke you to death. You could also could start a leak or fire that during a SHIT type situation that can not be stopped because the equipment isn’t available.
    My advice is KEEP AWAY FROM this idea.

  2. Had never thought about this but I would hesitate to do it with the risks involved. Sounds like a chemical engineer would be a good person to have in your group huh.

  3. One of the things that I was thinking about in regards to pipelines under pressure is how long would a high-pressure line stay pressurized if it was a real SHTF and no one was maintaining the line or the pressure?

    I’m not an expert here, but wouldn’t it be realistic that at some point along the line, the pressure would start to escape causing the line to not be as dangerous? Of course, knowing if the line was pressurized is another thing entirely. But, do these lines need positive pressure applied on a regular basis?

    I’m just curious.


    1. Todd, depending upon what type of pipeline, there will most likely be check valves and other types of safety systems in place to prevent pressure loss during shutdown periods, sometimes pipelines are packed full of nitrogen and are put out of service when not being used, occasionally they actually have more pressure years down the road than when they were purged with nitrogen. This is due to thermal pressure increase. These systems are designed to keep everything contained no matter what

  4. Nathan

    To risky in my book. Fuel from a gas station would be a option though.

  5. Bill T

    Plan now to get along with out gas or oil.learn how to store it.you might hafto walk and cut fire wood but hay your still alive.bill t

  6. Yes Todd,I completely agree with you to keep all options open including doing without!
    My curiosity with this is what the pipelines do not tell you. They may have some type of
    chemical symbols or technical data pertaining to what is in the line but unless you are an
    expert at interpreting this data and the pressures and velocities at which they come out at
    you could be totally screwed! (People in other countries do this on a regular basis,think India)
    However,as usual you have come up with some great food for thought in an extreme emergency.
    Love your blogs! Keep up the great writings! (God bless, Bill)

  7. tuesdayissoylentgreen day

    Spent 35 years in the Petro Chemical operations. STAY AWAY from pipelines… Pipe lines are highways. Just like our roadways they intersect with other pipoelines. Business A makes a product that is similar to business B. They blend or share the pipeline. In a SHTF situation, you will never know what company might have shut down their operations another did not. Pipe line are under hundreds to thousands of pounds of pressure. Yes, a line could have some pressure on it for a very long time due to check valves and isolation valves that the company used during process. But when a mass shtf situation is nation wide. I would not trust any pipe line to have the product the lable says it has. To many fail safe and to many hands in the kitchen during a major event to trust the pipe line.

  8. To answer the question in the headline, “NO, pipelines are NOT an option”. I have worked in the oilfield for 20 years. Stay away from any equipment and pipelines that you are not qualified to run, use, or maintain, If you are in Oil Country and you don’t know what H2S is, then you are not prepared to be in Oil Country.

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