A Survivor of Cold War: The NATO Pipeline System - Ercan Emre Çelik

Did you know that NATO has a pipeline system that is designed to ensure that its requirements for military-grade fuel supply and its distribution across the Alliance can be met at all times 7/24?

The NATO Pipeline System (NPS) was set up during the Cold War to supply NATO forces with fuel, and today it continues to satisfy the fuel requirements of not only the militaries but as well as several commercial aerospace outfits.

NPS runs across the territories of 13 member states and has a length of nearly 12.000 kilometers with a storage capacity of 5.5 million cubic meters. Even though today’s focus shifted NATO away from its static pipeline infrastructure to adapt towards a concept that requires rapidly deployable support to sustain allied expeditionary activities, thanks to a combination of fourteen distinct but interoperable modules, the static infrastructure maintains its importance. Thus member states can receive, store, and distribute fuel at any place, any time.

NATO member states extensively use this system for military purposes in peacetime as well, mainly for swift, fast and secure delivery of aircraft fuel to military airbases. The spare capacity is used to support commercial traffic with the condition that the primary concern of meeting military needs is not affected.

NPS integrates the fuel supply of depots, military airbases, civilian airports, pumping stations, and entry/discharge points. It consists of eight national pipeline systems and two multinational systems stretching across Europe, including Turkey whose system consists of two separate pipeline systems known as the Western Turkey Pipeline System and the Eastern Turkey Pipeline System.

The command, control and operating rights of the Turkish Pipeline System (TUPS) solely lies on the Ministry of National Defence which has a separate departmental-level branch that is tasked to deal with issues concerning TUPS and its use, named as the Presidency of Fuel Supply and NATO POL Facilities. One of the four deputy-ministers is solely tasked to oversight this department only along with two minor units whereas the other three deputy-ministers are responsible for several numerous departmental-level groups within the ministry. That explanation perhaps can signify the vital importance of these pipelines for any host member-state.

The Turkish Pipeline System was constructed and declared operational at the late 1950s. Today it has a length of over 3.200 kilometers with a storage capacity over one million cubic meters. These storages are also reinforced with fuel refined at TÜPRAŞ facilities to be distributed to military bases via TUPS to support and meet the supply needs of Turkish Armed Forces and NATO allies.

Since the end of the Cold War, the NPS has been used for several civilian and military purposes. Today’s increased demand for fuel, mostly arising to meet the needs of the aerospace sector, can only be achieved by the NPS, which remains as the most cost-effective, secure and environmentally safe method of storing and distributing fuel to Alliance forces.