SIC 4619

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in the pipeline transportation of commodities, except crude petroleum, refined products of petroleum, and natural gas. Establishments primarily engaged in the pipeline transportation of refined petroleum are classified in SIC 4613: Crude Petroleum Pipelines, and those engaged in natural gas transmission are classified in SIC 4922: Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution. Most notably, the industry includes coal slurry pipeline operations and metal ore concentrates.

NAICS Code(s)

486990 (All Other Pipeline Transportation)

According to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2001, approximately 16 firms operating 57 establishments were primarily engaged in the operation of pipelines for the transportation of coal slurry, metal ore slurry, phosphate slurry, etc., and other types of pipelines, not elsewhere classified. These establishments employed 735 workers for a total industry payroll of about $51.56 million. This industry's employment comprised only a scant percent of the total employment for the broader pipeline industry, which is mainly comprised of petroleum and natural gas pipelines.

Most of the U.S. pipelines operated by this industry transport coal suspended in water (crushed/mashed coal mixed with water to create slurry). The United States operates an extensive slurry pipeline system, and pipelines are operated throughout the world, transporting not only coal but other metal ore concentrates. Coal, however, was the first slurry system to be developed, and in 1995 total U.S. coal-slurry output totaled 100 million short tons, including transport by tramway and conveyor. The key developmental factor in coal-slurry technology was its cost competitiveness when compared to other methods of transporting coal. The expense associated with building roads and railroads to the mouth of the mines was prohibitive, and the slurry alternative required a much smaller capital investment. As such, the Black Mesa Company began operating a coal slurry line in 1970 that transported coal 273 miles from a mine in northeast Arizona to a power plant in southern Nevada. This became the prototype for most slurry pipelines, and in the late 1990s pipelines stretched as long as 1,500 miles.

Coal slurry technology involves transporting pulverized coal suspended in water and pumped through pipelines. From the mine, the coal is crushed, formed into slurry, suspended in water, and pumped through the pipe to the power plant. At the end of its journey, the slurry is placed in storage tanks, where various processes remove the water from it. The final result is coal that can be used for burning.

Modern slurry systems were initially developed after World War II and, although coal is the most common commodity transported via slurry, other concentrates—iron-ore concentrate, copper ore, phosphate-rock concentrate, limestone, and the mineral gilsonite—are transported as well. The South American Alumbrera pipeline, completed in early 1998, is the world's longest copper ore concentrate slurry pipeline, traversing 312 kilometers through the Andean desert, vast grazing lands, rain forests, and flat pampas in Tucumn.

In recent years, pipelines have been built for the transport of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, ethylene, and other liquids. In 1997, pipelines transported about $18 billion dollars worth of hazardous materials (excluding petroleum and its byproducts, kerosene, etc.) which consisted primarily of flammable liquids such as refrigerated liquid ethylene, butane, sodium hydroxide solutions, propylene, benzene, and butadiene.

From the late 1990s into the early 2000s, this industry has remained small but stable. Nearly all of the firms in the industry are typically either small companies focused exclusively on pipeline transportation or larger firms primarily involved in other lines of business. The clear industry leader in 2001 was Northern Border Partnership LP, based in Omaha, Nebraska, with $158 million in revenue. Second was TC Pipelines LP of Westborough, Massachusetts, with $46 million in revenue, followed by Sacramento-based Wickland Oil Co., with $5 million in revenue.

Further Reading

"About Northern Border Partners, LP." 3 March 2004. Available from .

Baker, Deborah J., ed. Ward's Business Directory of US Private and Public Companies. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale, 2003.

Hoover's Company Fact Sheet. "TC Pipelines, LP." 22 March 2004. Available from .

Lazich, Robert S., ed. Market Share Reporter. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale, 2004.

U.S. Census Bureau. Statistics of U.S. Businesses: 2001. 1 March 2004. Available from .

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