The member companies of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America are committed to pipeline safety. In December 2010, INGAA’s board of directors established a board-level task force to pursue ways to further improve the industry’s safety performance and give the public confidence in natural gas pipeline infrastructure. In March 2011, INGAA members formally adopted a set of Guiding Principles for pipeline safety, anchored with a goal of zero pipeline incidents.
Five Guiding Principles for Pipeline Safety
- Our goal is zero incidents -a perfect record of safety and reliability for the national pipeline system. We will work every day toward this goal.
- We are committed to safety culture as a critical dimension to continuously improve our industry’s performance.
- We will be relentless in our pursuit of improving by learning from the past and anticipating the future.
- We are committed to applying integrity management principles on a system-wide basis.
- We will engage our stakeholders - from the local community to the national level - so they understand and can participate in reducing risk.
INGAA has an active pipeline safety committee, which meets regularly and holds workshops on pipeline safety topics.
In addition, INGAA’s sister organization, the INGAA Foundation, has developed a series of guidelines for pipeline and construction safety.
INGAA’s members work with organizations, such as the Pipeline Research Council International, the Gas Technology Institute and others, to plan and support research and development investments to make pipeline safer. They also work with the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Department of Energy on R+D efforts.
Corrosion management (the Integrity Management Program)
Pipeline corrosion can cause leaks or damage to the pipelines, so the industry takes steps right from the beginning of construction to reduce the chance that the pipeline can corrode. Crews apply an electrical shield called cathodic protection to the pipeline. This supplements other coating protections to help protect the pipeline against the elements and internal corrosion.
The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in 2004 launched a program, called the Integrity Management Program, requiring specialized inspection of pipelines located in High Consequence Areas (populated areas) every seven years. The regulator specifically designed the program to reduce leaks and ruptures on pipelines caused by corrosion.
Under the rules, the pipeline operator must inspect the pipeline using one of four methods:
- an internal inspection device (or a “smart pig”)
- hydrostatic pressure testing (filling the pipe with water and pressurizing it well above operating pressures to verify a safety margin)
- direct assessment (digging up and visually inspecting sections of pipe selected based on various electronic measurements and other characteristics), or
- “other alternative methods that the Secretary of Transportation determines would provide an equal or greater level of safety.”
The program has worked exceptionally well, with the number of corrosion-related leaks on natural gas transmission pipelines dropping 36 percent from 2002 to 2014.
INGAA members have committed to expand the number of miles inspected using integrity management systems, and have agreed to prioritize based on population.
Learn more about IMP and INGAA’s commitment to expand integrity management beyond highly populated areas.
Primary tools used in IMP: Pigs and hydrostatic testing
Pigs are used to inspect pipelines. No, not the farm animals, but robotic devices called pigs because of the squealing sound they make when they travel through the pipelines. “Smart” pigs are used to evaluate the inside of the pipeline and ensure that they are safe. Pigs can ensure proper pipe structure, detect signs of corrosion or leaks and clean the insides of the pipeline. Smart pigs are just one of the many ways that the pipeline industry ensures safety. Pipeline operators also conduct routine aerial and walking inspections of the pipeline and they monitor the pipeline’s pressure 24/7 in high-tech control rooms.