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Pipeline safety and reliability
The safe transportation of hydrocarbons and other fluids within pipelines is a top priority within the oil and gas industry. Companies are subject to several federal regulations, standards, and monitoring from agencies such as The National Energy Board Onshore Pipeline Regulations (OPR); under the National Energy Board Act, The U.S. Department of Transportation – PHMSA , and The Transportation Safety Board (TSB).The safe transportation of hydrocarbons and other fluids within pipelines is a top priority within the oil and gas industry. Companies are subject to several federal regulations, standards, and monitoring from agencies such as The National Energy Board Onshore Pipeline Regulations (OPR) under the National Energy Board Act, The U.S. Department of Transportation – PHMSA, and The Transportation Safety Board (TSB).
Fluids transported using pipelines can include:
- Crude oil
- Refined petroleum products
- Liquefied petroleum gases
- Natural gas
- Special use gases & chemicals
Designing and building onshore and subsea pipeline transportation projects that are safe, sustainable, and ecofriendly have been an ongoing mission of the industry. Each project must address the following basics with any pipeline project including engineering, procurement, construction, feasibility, permitting, program management, and the pipelines lifecycle To meet the pipeline industry’s goal of incident-free operation, pipeline operators invest considerable human and financial resources to protect the people, property and environments near pipelines. Damage prevention measures include routine inspection and maintenance, corrosion protection, continuous monitoring and control technologies, public awareness programs, and integrity management and emergency response plans. .
Basics of a pipeline
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) defines a pipeline system as all parts of a pipeline facility through which a hazardous liquid or gas moves in transportation, including piping, valves, and other appurtenances connected to the pipeline, pumping units, fabricated assemblies associated with pumping units, metering and delivery stations, and breakout tanks. The pipeline industry has installed more than 2.1 million miles of pipeline to transport a variety of gases and liquids from gathering points to storage areas, and from refineries and processing plants to customers’ homes and places of business.
Normally these pipelines are buried underground but pipelines can also be found aboveground in cold and harsh environments, and at pump and compressor stations, some valve stations and terminals. Pipelines are constructed along a clear corridor of land called the right-of-way (ROW).
Aboveground signs and markers identify the approximate location of underground pipelines. Markers are required to be present wherever a pipeline crosses under roads, railroads or waterways. They may also be found at other intervals and locations along the pipeline right-of-way, such as near buildings and pipeline facilities.
Pipeline project locations are worldwide, including Africa, Argentina, Canada, Caribbean, Chile, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Russia, and the U.S.
Developing safety programs
The U.S. Department of Transportation – PHMSA has been offering several awards to facilitate development of safety in pipelines.
Pipelines are often described as having a lifecycle.
- The specific routes are designed and mapped.
- Manufacturing of the pipe to specified standards
- The pipe is inspected and tested prior to shipping
- The pipe is again inspected by independent third parties after welding; cathodic protection technology is installed to prevent corrosion.
- The pipe is then either buried and the area is landscaped, buried below waterways, or it is supported above ground.
- The pipeline is pressure-tested.
- Once in service, the pipeline is monitored 24 hours a day in a control center.
- Once the pipeline has reached the end of its life, it is typically purged, cleaned and sealed off to prevent residual fuel from entering the environment; sometimes the pipe is removed from the ground.
Reporting of spills and response
In the event of a spill, pipeline operators must immediately notify the federal agency in their area. Operators are responsible for taking immediate steps to stop, mitigate and clean up a spill. Pipeline companies are required to submit Emergency Response Plan (ERP). The ERP requires companies to assess the risk of a spill and outline the details of a response. They must be up-to-date with corresponding emergency manuals and must be reviewed regularly.
Liability and compensation for accidents
Liability and compensation depends on the federal or local regulations that cover the specific location of the failure. Canada’s National Energy Board Onshore Pipeline Regulations under the National Energy Board Act require pipeline operators to have sufficient financial resources in place to operate pipelines in a manner that ensures, among other things, the safety of people, security of the pipeline, and protection of property and the environment.
- "Pipeline Emergency Response Guidelines." 2007. Pipeline Association for Public Awareness. http://www.sourcegas.com/UserFiles/File/Pipeline_ER_Guidelines.pdf
- "Moving Energy Safely." 2013. The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/411/enev/rep/rep12aug13-e.pdf.