3 Pipeline Safety Issues You May Not Have Been Aware Of

In late April, CenterPoint Energy released a detailed pipeline safety message to residents in the city of Houston, surrounding areas in Texas, and other Gulf Coast states where they operate.

The message was geared toward residential users to share valuable information with family, neighbors, and co-workers to ensure safe interaction with pipelines running throughout a given area.

After reading the message, we believe there is also relevant information to share with professionals who interact with pipelines on a daily or semi-regular basis.

Pipeline Safety Issues

Consider the following pipeline safety issues that you may not be aware that could help you in your current role.

Pipeline Safety Issue #1: Some Areas Are More Critical Than Others

Related to pipeline risk, not every area in a particular region is treated the same. If a portion of a pipeline system is located in a “populated or environmentally sensitive” area, this is designated as a High Consequence Area (HCA).

Additionally, the HCAs are subject to increased inspections and additional maintenance measures that are part of an Integrity Management Program (IMP).

The HCA designation and subsequent IMP program are managed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). To ensure that residents, pipeline operators, and other professionals are aware of these high-consequence areas, PHMSA has provided the National Pipeline Mapping System for public access and viewing.

Pipeline Safety Issue #2: Pipeline Markers Are Not Exact

Most pipelines in a given area are buried underground. To help indicate where pipelines are located, pipeline markers are used to indicate their “approximate location.”

These pipeline markers help identify where a pipeline intersects with a street, highway, or other road feature. On the marker, you can find pertinent information such as the material in the pipe, the name of the pipeline operator, and the phone number of the operator.

However, pipeline markers “cannot be relied upon to indicate the exact position of the pipeline,” according to CenterPoint. Why is this? A pipeline typically does not run in a straight course between markers. That is why it is essential to use the mapping system to identify the exact location of a pipeline to ensure pipeline safety if you need to work with a particular stretch of underground pipe.

Pipeline Safety Issue #3: Check the Pipeline Right-of-Way Before Taking Action

Before you interact with a pipeline, you should check the pipeline right-of-way, which provides access to the pipeline for maintenance and other services.

The pipeline marker will typically indicate a pipeline right-of-way. However, if you do not see a pipeline marker, you should not interact with the pipeline or place anything near it before the pipeline is marked and the right-of-ways are staked.

This process is important because the right-of-ways help indicate areas where certain actions are prohibited to protect public safety and the integrity of the pipeline. They also help identify areas that should be clear in the event of an emergency.

ENTELEC Supports Members in the Pursuit of Pipeline Safety

As part of our commitment to education and shared learning, ENTELEC believes it is important for all industry professionals to be reminded of pipeline safety. We want our members and colleagues to safely perform tasks in their given role, no matter how often you interact with pipelines.

Consider joining the ENTELEC user association to receive more valuable resources throughout the year — many of our members find the committees particularly valuable for staying current on the issues that impact their work. We look forward to serving your professional needs in the petroleum, natural gas, pipeline, and electric utility industries.

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