What to Know About Oil and Gas Pipeline Safety
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, pipelines are the most efficient and safest way to transport petroleum products and natural gas. In fact, over 34% of our nation’s energy is generated by natural gas and over 700 million gallons of petroleum products is pumped through 300,000 miles of transmission pipeline across the country and between storage facilities each day. With so much reliance on this mode of transportation, it’s essential to learn about oil and gas pipeline safety – and the components involved.
Pumping and compressor stations are periodically located on the transmission line to gather routes and keep the flow of product moving safely and efficiently. Local distribution companies then deliver natural gas to businesses and homes through 900,000 miles of main and utility service lines. Most of these pipelines are located underground where they will minimize interference with uses on the surface and remain protected from the elements.
While most business follow strict guidelines on pipeline safety, rare accidents have occurred throughout history. In most recent news, the Keystone Pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil below ground in South Dakota. The pipeline was shut down just minutes after workers noticed the irregularity. The spill was contained, cleaned up, and no wildlife, water systems or waterways were contaminated.
While accidents such as these are incredibly unfortunate, they also spark a healthy level of concern for our oil and gas pipeline safety measurements and emphasize the protocol put forth by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), who acted quickly and efficiently in this face of this danger.
Pipeline Safety vs. Railway Safety
Unfortunately, tragic accidents such as these often detract from the most vital infrastructure questions: By what means is the safest way to transport the oil and gas used by our modern society?
A study conducted by Fraser Institute examined just that, using data from various government sources to determine whether rail or pipelines were more suitable for transporting gas and oil. The study focused on the number of accidents or occurrences in each million of barrels gas and oil transported.
The results were clear. While both the pipeline and rail are considered to be safe, pipelines are without a doubt the safest means of transport for potentially hazardous products.
Each year, the pipelines experienced fewer accidents in each million barrels than the rail. Overall, the pipeline experienced 0.049 occurrences in a million barrels of oil and gas transported compared to 0.227 for rails.
Therefore, the rail is 4 ½ times more likely to experience an accident.
Furthermore, the National Transportation Safety Board also questions the often “worst-case” rhetoric surrounding pipeline safety debates. In reality, 73% of pipeline of pipeline incidents result in spills that are lower than 1 cubic meter, while 16% of each incident result in absolutely no spills.
Furthermore, more than 80% of pipeline occurrences don’t actually occur in the pipeline. Rather, they occur in facilities that have higher monitoring and containment procedures/mechanisms.
But, perhaps the most compelling statistic in regards to pipeline safety is that 99% of pipeline occurrences don’t damage the environment.
Pipeline Components and Construction
Maintaining these positive statistics are key, not only in protecting our people and our environment, but changing the way that people approach natural gas and oil pipeline safety. While strong safety regulations are set forth and enforced by the National Transportation and Safety Board and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, efficient and safe transportation truly begins and ends with the quality of pipeline construction, valve components, and compressor stations.
These factors are key concerns for gas and oil equipment utilized by upstream, midstream and downstream sectors. Rotary control valves are the center of safety and control of pipeline flow on a day-to-day basis. Not only must they be constructed to withstand punishing conditions, but also for reliable flow control and pressure, as well as absolute shutoff when necessary.
Recent advancements in pipeline processes and production techniques have not only demanded new operation, but also new types of valves and equipment that meet and exceed regulatory obligations surrounding safety. Pipeline and production components are expected to last longer, preform reliably in extreme conditions, and provide total safety for workers and the environment.
Valve manufacturing companies have risen to meet these needs through design flexibility, application specific design, rotary control technologies, and preventative coatings, along with continual field investigations and laboratory analysis – to ensure reliability, efficiency, and safety of pipeline valve components.
Reducing Risks and Ensuring Confidence
It doesn’t stop there, most process plants and pipeline adhere to strict pipeline safety requirements and legislation regarding fugitive emissions. In these conditions, even small leaks into the atmosphere are of large concern. Control and monitoring of these emissions have become an inherent focal point for plant and pipeline operators.
Whether satisfying legislative, environmental, or industry guidelines put forth by agencies such as ASME, EPA, or others, valves must maintain clearly defined requirements in the handling of common valve leak areas: body gaskets and stems. Small drips or gaseous release has the potential to harm personal, the environment, and equipment.
With this concern in mind, a valve company must engineer components that reduce the potential for unanticipated emissions and leaks through reliable sealing.
Furthermore, valves must be tested for dependable performance in the face of fire, extreme temperature conditions and even emergency shut down to stop the flow of hazardous gases and fluids in the face of potentially dangerous events.
Different modes of gas and oil transportation pose varying amounts of risks. While all modes of natural gas and oil transport have high safe-delivery rates, there are some differences. In fact, there is considerably less risk of occurrences via pipeline in a given quantity of oil and distance then by rail. There would be still even more occurrences if that same volume was moved the same distance via truck.
Maintaining measurable positive safety transportation rates within our natural gas and oil network begin with the implementation of quality components and construction, and end with strong legislation and boundaries set forth by our safety regulatory agencies.
If you would like to learn more about this topic and how it will affect your business, contact us today and see how we can help.
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