Pipelines in Wyoming

May 3, 2019

Wyoming Energy History

In its early years, oil that was produced in Wyoming was brought to market by whiskey barrels and horse-drawn wagons. As the number of well increased, more and more oil was being produced and operators struggled to move the petroleum products efficiently. The lack of transportation caused producing wells to be plugged and oil being wasted. In some areas, oil was entirely left out of the market. Finding ways to transport the product would help producers, operators, and the economy.

Transporting oil in the west was particularly difficult due to the fact that most drilling was done in remote locations in difficult terrain. Wyoming oilmen would haul oil in wagons, and it would take one to two weeks to make the round trip to market. Early pipelines were made of wood and were employed on a limited basis, supplemented by cast-iron and wrought-iron lines in and around wells. The growing demand for oil prompted the development of pipeline transportation in rural areas.

Pipelines from oil wells to the first refinery in Casper, Wyoming were proposed to make transportation easier, but horse power remained the mainstay for oil transportation. New horse-drawn wagons carried tanks that could carry thousands of pounds of oil, allowing for larger amounts of oil to be brought into the refinery. However, as demand continued to increase the state needed to accommodate for more rapid production, and between 1889 and 1910, several pipelines were were considered for transportation.

In 1911, a six-inch diameter pipeline was completed and pumped 2,000 barrels of oil to the refinery in Casper every day. Later in the year, several other pipelines were completed allowing for larger sums of oil to be transported. Natural gas pipelines were also constructed to convey natural gas for home use. With the demand for oil and gas refusing to slow down, more and more pipeline systems were implemented to transport the products throughout Wyoming and to neighboring states. The Wyoming energy economy boomed and allowed to state to grow and develop into what we see today.

This article is provided through our partnership with the Wyoming State Historical Society.

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