Pipelines are generally the most economical way to transport large quantities of oil or natural gas over land. Compared to railroad, they have lower cost per unit and higher capacity. For natural gas, pipelines are constructed of carbon steel and varying in size from 2 inches (51 mm) to over 60 inches (1,500 mm) in diameter, depending on the type of pipeline.
The gas is pressurized by compressor stations and is odorless unless mixed with a mercaptan odorant where required by a regulating authority. When a pipeline is built, the construction project not only covers the civil work to lay the pipeline and build the pump/compressor stations, it also has to cover all the work related to the installation of the field devices that will support remote operation.
Field devices are instrumentation, data gathering units and communication systems. The field instrumentation includes flow, pressure and temperature gauges/transmitters, and other devices to measure the relevant data required. These instruments are installed along the pipeline on some specific locations, such as injection or delivery stations, pump stations (liquid pipelines) or compressor stations (gas pipelines), and block valve stations.