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!
AN SHTF FUEL OPTION
But 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.
PIPELINES IN THE US
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.
WELL PADS/WELL HEADS
This 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.
MAKING PLANS NOW
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.