Oil and gas transportation is a matter of vital public importance, not only from a power generation standpoint, but also as an issue of safety. The world’s natural resources are the fundamental reserve with which nations must constantly tap into, yet protect at the same time. Fortunately, there are safe and efficient ways to move these resources across country from drilling sites to refineries, utility companies and their eventual destination centers.
Of all modes of oil and gas transportation – rail, tanker, truck and pipeline – engineers have been able to hone in on specific manufacturing and maintenance processes to make resource delivery safer than it has ever been. Pipelines in particular are accepted as the safest way to transport oil and gas due to a variety of factors.
Perhaps one of the most immediate reasons pipelines are preferred over other methods of transportation is because they are firmly rooted underground. The containers themselves do not have to be hauled, as opposed to trains, trucks and barges, which all physically carry oil and gas long distances. Because of this fact, the chances of human error or traffic congestion are minimized.
“Oil and gas companies understand the benefits of remaining compliant with the latest industry standards.”
A report from the Fraser Institute noted there are fewer than 0.6 injuries or spills relating to pipelines per billion ton-miles annually. Further, hospitalization of oil workers on pipelines is 30 times less than those working on rails.
Not only are pipelines less susceptible to human mistakes, but they may also be better capable of handling high volumes of oil and gas.
Roughly 70 percent of liquid petroleum products are shipped via pipeline, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Additionally, there are more than 500,000 miles of crude oil pipelines in the U.S. and a network of 2 million natural gas distribution pipelines. Because pipelines operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and at such a high capacity – they have proven their ability to be the safest option for transportation.
Reliability of safety measures
The pipeline industry is one of the most heavily regulated segments of the energy sector. In addition to the U.S. Department of Transportation providing key oversight, pipelines are also subject to the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and various state-sponsored organizations that work in tandem with the federal government.
With strong safety measures in place, including detailed review processes complete with scientific inspections, data collection and on-site environmental testing, new pipeline construction can take years before ground is broken. Similarly, the citizenry in the surrounding communities typically have public comment periods, whereby they can voice their opinions before final approval is granted.
Oil and gas companies also have a dedicated commitment to self regulation as well, as they understand the benefits of remaining compliant with the latest industry standards and being proactive in regards to mitigating potential risks. One example of this is the Pipeline Performance Tracking System, a program that aggregates industry data to provide guidance on preventing negative environmental impacts.
Participating pipeline operators report spills and other incidents to PPTS, providing the comprehensive data that others in the industry can use to determine best practices and new safety techniques while avoiding mistakes.
Updated integrity management
Over time, pipelines may be affected by corrosive elements, potentially weakening or damaging the structure. However, the industry as a whole recognizes the need to negate the effects of these stress points and employs continuous operational maintenance as part of a larger integrity management program.
Pipeline integrity solutions include the use of investigative and forward-thinking structural assessments that can pinpoint problems before they arise. For instance, operators and service providers identify dents, stress-corrosion cracking (SCC) and pressure-cycle fatigue through direct assessments (DA), hydrostatic testing and a variety of other in-line inspection methods.
After compiling data from the inspections, operators are able to predict and defend against these types of threats and apply the best pipeline integrity management practices in real time.
These solutions are especially pertinent in high-consequence areas (HCA), as operators must place extra caution on the performance of pipelines to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.
With advanced safety procedures and proven risk-averse security methods, pipelines are and will continue to be the premier mode of oil and gas transportation.
As a global technology leader committed to asset integrity solutions with high quality, safety and flexibility, Applus+ prides itself on meeting even the most complex challenges with reliable and efficient service. Having delivered non-destructive testing, inspection support and engineering analysis for more than 1,300 pipeline projects, onshore and offshore, Applus RTD is prepared to work in close partnership with operators and owners in order to maintain their operational efficiency while ensuring minimum risk to people, assets and the environment.
Make your challenges our challenges. To learn more about Applus+ pipeline integrity solutions, contact us.