The petroleum pipelines we use today are not fundamentally that much different than the one built by Van Syckel. They still reside both above and under the ground. They still use pumps that apply pressure to the petroleum to force it along the line, even though Van Syckel used steam pumps and we use electrically powered centrifugal pumps. This is where the similarities end however. The process has gotten much more sophisticated by means of automation. Computer-aided systems called SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) allow skilled individuals in control rooms to monitor every aspect of pipeline operations, including fluid characteristics, rate of flow, and pressure. These systems are also crucial in detecting fluctuations and alerting technicians to potential leaks as well as isolating the location of the problem so that dispatch crews can be sent to investigate.
Modern petroleum pipelines can have a diameter of anywhere from 2 inches to 3 feet and this is usually determined by what they are pumping and how much of it is being pumped.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of pipelines – crude oil pipelines and natural gas pipelines. Both contain sub-groups within themselves that serve specific sectors of the energy marketplace.