Gas pipeline grid safety regulations cover design, construction, testing, operations and maintenance. These regulations include EHS-focused requirements for damage prevention, public awareness, integrity management, training programs, as well as many others. While ensuring the specific requirements of the law, effective emergency management provisions should also include identification, evaluation, prevention, and control for any situation that can adversely affect employees, the community, the environment, or operational sustainability. This is especially true for gas pipeline operations that often span large geographic areas, cross waterways, and come in close proximity to environmentally sensitive areas, schools, hospitals, residential areas, and other critical socio-economic foundations.
Types of gas facilities may include:
Gathering pipelines transport gas and crude oil away from the points of production (i.e., wellheads) to facilities for processing or refinement or to transmission pipelines.
Transmission pipelines move gas and hazardous liquids long distances across the country, often at high pressures.
Distribution pipelines are generally smaller lines that take natural gas from transmission pipelines and deliver it to individual homes and businesses. Distribution pipeline systems operate at much lower pressures than transmission pipelines.
Gas operations infrastructures are a combination of transmission pipelines, compressor stations, underground natural gas storage sites, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. .According to 2007-2008 data from the US Energy Information Association, the natural gas pipeline grid is comprised of:
- More than 210 natural gas pipeline systems.
- 305,000 miles of interstate and intrastate transmission pipelines
- More than 1,400 compressor stations that maintain pressure on the natural gas pipeline network and assure continuous forward movement of supplies
- More than 11,000 delivery points, 5,000 receipt points, and 1,400 interconnection points that provide for the transfer of natural gas throughout the United States.
- 24 hubs or market centers that provide additional interconnections
- 400 underground natural gas storage facilities
- 49 locations where natural gas can be imported/exported via pipelines
- 8 LNG import facilities and 100 LNG peaking facilities
Source: Department of Transporatation
While all pipeline risks cannot be averted, incidents can be minimized if mitigation and response planning measures are implemented and prioritized. Aging infrastructure, adverse conditions, unsafe activities, or ineffective responses pose risks to occupants, facilities, the environment, and/or communities. Gas facilities and traversing pipelines may require varied preparedness and response planning strategies in the event of a release in a sensitive or populated area.
PHMSA suggests the following mitigation measures should be in place:
- Ensure Integrity management (IM) oversight
- Evaluate valve inspections programs and documentation efforts
- Verify operational leak detection systems
- Collaborate with Public Association for Public Awareness programs including the Pipelines and
- Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA)
- Promote “Damage Prevention Programs” in local communities, such as 811
- Participate in Community Assistance and Technical Support (CATS)
Response plans for gas facilities should define, plan for, document, and provide guidance to those responding to a variety of identified risks and potential emergencies. All information, including emergency contacts, should be regularly updated for accuracy. Response procedures for each likely scenario should:
- Be rigorous enough, yet standardized, to minimize subjectivity or interpretation, and preclude oversights in order to accomplish the assigned mission and critical tasks.
- Include estimated response times, required capabilities, needs of the population, and identified success criteria.
- Comply with all regulations and internal guidelines. Failure to comply with regulations can result in fines, negative public perception, and possibly government-mandated shutdown of operations.