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Pipeline Companies and the Need for Tactical Response Plans

Posted on Thu, Dec 13, 2012

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) 2009 Annual Report, the United States had approximately 2.5 million miles of pipelines transporting oil, natural gas, and hazardous liquids. However, pipelines continue to be constructed across the U.S. in efforts to secure higher capacities of oil and gas for a growing number of consumers.

In Nov. 2012, Bluestone Gas Corporation of New York Inc., a subsidiary of DTE Energy, began construction of a 44 mile, 20-inch diameter pipeline. Upon completion, the new segment will connect with current lines to carry natural gas from northern Pennsylvania to East Coast markets. The pipeline will have a capacity of 275 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, roughly enough to provide heat to 3,800 homes for a year.

Pipeline segments, whether new or existing, share common acreage with waterways, residential neighborhoods, businesses, schools, and municipalities. Pipelines are a distinct type of risk, since they typically do not utilize secondary containment. If a spill were to occur, the impact could be devastating on multiple fronts. By creating tactical response plans, pipeline companies can identify and plan for key geographical challenges that may delay responding to and managing a pipeline emergency.

The primary objectives of tactical response plans are to:

  • Allow response personnel to prepare for and safely respond to pipeline spill incidents
  • Pre-identify effective response locations downstream of potential spill sources.
  • Identify potential equipment, manpower, and other resources necessary to implement a spill response
  • Outline response procedures and techniques for specific locations
  • Improve regulatory compliance efforts
  • Minimize impact

If a pipeline release could impact waterways, pre planning by developing tactical response plans can lessen spill implications. Determining probable spill flow direction and flow rates from accurate topographical data can serve as a basis for planning. Tactical planning provides site-specific focus to emergency response plans, and applies a response perspective with specific, short-term actions, and provides details that allow responders to best access, assess, and quickly respond to pipeline spills. The identification of critical downstream response locations, necessary equipment suited for the site geography, and other site-specific details can significantly reduce response time with a rapid execution of appropriate response measures.

Tactical spill plans should include, but are not limited to:

  • Various photographs of each segment (including ground and aerial views, if possible)
  • Maps
  • Latitude and Longitude
  • Land/property owner information
  • Driving directions to the site from main roads
  • Description of potential staging area(s)
  • Specific response tactics for the site location
  • Description of site and applicable waterways
  • Site access specifications
  • Necessary security requirements
  • Waterway flow rates and composition
  • Any critical response information that may be informative to responders
  • Recommended equipment and personnel to implement response strategy
  • Other site specific pertinent issues that may hinder a response

Tactical plans are an effective collaborative response tool for companies to share with contracted response groups and local authorities. The planning process should involve detailed site examination and an understanding of the characteristics of the pipeline contents.  When tactical plans are coupled with Geographic Information System (GIS) data, response teams have an invaluable tool for an effective spill response. However, as with all response plans, tactical plans should be periodically reviewed for accuracy, and selectively exercised to test effectiveness.

For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.

TRP Fire Pre Plan Image

Tags: Pipeline, Crisis Mapping, Business Risk, Oil Spill, Disaster Response