It began with a group of gentlemen from ten different oil companies, who normally were in competition with one another. But for this endeavor, they put their differences aside and took a hard look at building a pipeline to transport their products across the country.
In the end, eight companies - Apco Oil Company, Cities Service Company, Continental Oil Company, Gulf Oil Company, Phillips Petroleum Company, Shell Oil Company, Sun Oil Company and Texaco, Inc. - signed on as shareholders in a pipeline that would span 1,400 miles with an ultimate capacity of 720,000 barrels a day.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, domestic oil production was decreasing. Predictions were that small Midwest refineries would soon begin dying out. Huge petroleum reserves on the Alaskan North Slope were being discovered, and new Department of Transportation regulations were on the horizon.
By October 25, 1971, the first product was ready for shipping from Lake Charles, La., to Port Arthur, Texas. The last leg of construction was finished in the spring of 1972. The system begins with a 12-inch line from Lake Charles to Port Arthur, grows to 28 inches between Port Arthur and Tulsa, then changes to 24 inches into the Chicago suburb of Hammond.
The original pipeline - from east Texas to Chicago - was built on time and under budget in twenty exhausting months.
The early years were tough. The factors that pointed to the need for the pipeline had changed. Lofty expectations about volumes and business didn't materialize. The Arab embargo of 1973 caused volumes to drop. In turn, the time it took to move product from the Gulf Coast to Chicago went up dramatically. The company needed to find uses for it's capacity. The decision was made to transport both crude oil and refined products.
No other large-diameter pipeline had ever successfully batched and moved refined products and crude in the same pipeline. Quality control was critical, and mixing products and crude was difficult. Using a keen blend of technology, determination and horsepower, Explorer pioneered the process. It is a method that many companies replicate to this day.
By 1977, the bottom line was finally headed toward the black. And, by 1984, Explorer was moving 166 million barrels per year. The first dividend was on the horizon. On April 13, 2001, Explorer shipped its four billionth barrel. Explorer's history of vision, tenacity, and collaboration had finally turned into phenomenal growth and success.
Today, Explorer Pipeline transports gasoline, fuel oil and jet fuel to 70 population centers in 16 states.
In 2003, Explorer expanded its capacity by adding new pump stations, storage tanks, power substations and pumping equipment. It was the largest expansion since the pipeline's construction. Within nine months, the expanded pipeline was running at capacity.
What began as eight different corporate cultures blended together to result in the world's first high-tech pipeline system. As in the beginning, determination, innovation and collaboration have led to Explorer's position as one of the world's leading pipelines
In contrast, the founders of Explorer Pipeline - so named in honor of those who forged new passages through the North American mid-continent - had better things in mind. From the beginning, the goal was to create the safest, most efficient pipeline possible.