Pipeline costs vary somewhat proportional to the length of the pipeline project. So if all else were equal, the shortest route would generally be the least cost alternative. However, rarely is “all else equal” when evaluating pipeline routes. Important factors which come into play in route analysis include uncertainty/risk, potential impact to existing structures and utilities, environmental considerations, land acquisition costs and coordination with future utilities, roadway, and development plans.
Constructability concerns are also important; for example, it may cost significantly more to install pipe alongside a major roadway compared to a cow pasture. So a route study must take into consideration a broad array of factors in identifying the optimal route for the pipeline to take. The optimal route may not be the least costly route – but is judged to be the best overall alternative following a comprehensive review of costs, disruption to the public, environmental impact, disadvantages and risk/uncertainty, meeting project objectives, and other concerns.
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