Oil, gas industry seeking “zero incident” record on pipelines - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Oil, gas industry seeking “zero incident” record on pipelines

Posted: Updated:

The oil and gas industry is seeking the highest possible standards of safety in regard to pipelines, an industry trade group says.

The statement from the American Petroleum Institute's Peter Lidiak, director of pipelines, followed the posting of the National Transportation Safety Board's designation of enhanced pipeline safety and infrastructure preservation among its top ten "Most Wanted" objectives in 2013.

API represents more than 500 members who are major players in the oil and natural gas industry.

"Pipelines are the safest way to transport crude oil and products where they need to go," Lidiak said. "The nation's crude oil and liquid fuels pipelines have an outstanding safety record and operators understand the need for continuous improvement. Between 1999 and 2011, the number of liquid pipeline releases was reduced by about 60 percent and the volume released by a little more than 40 percent. The industry continues to seek the most beneficial, cost-effective improvements to safety."

Lidiak said that older pipelines are largely operated with a high degree of reliability and safety. Pipeline releases, the API found through an analysis of Department of Transportation data, were down 84 percent from 2002 to 2009.

"In June 2012, the oil pipeline industry affirmed eight principles that guide industry safety programs," Lidiak said. "The first is the goal of zero incidents – no releases, no injuries and no fatalities. We are making progress toward this goal and understand there is more work to do to reach it. We are also making progress on a July 2012 NTSB recommendation to API to develop a pipeline industry safety management system standard." 

Six of the ten on the most-wanted list involve highway traffic safety, where the majority of fatalities occur.

""Transportation is safer than ever, but with 35,000 annual fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries, we can, and must, do better," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "The Most Wanted List is a roadmap to improving safety for all of our nation's travelers."

Pipelines, the NTSB acknowledges, is the safest way of transporting oil and gas, but also requires special precaution.

"In 1998 in South Riding, Virginia, a leak resulted in $18 million in damages and repairs," the NTSB lists among examples of pipeline disasters. "In 2007, in Carmichael, Mississippi, a pipeline ruptured, and the ensuing cloud of natural gas ignited and created a large fireball, killing two people, injuring seven, and destroying four homes."

According to the to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 34 serious pipeline incidents occured in 2010. In that year, 19 ere killed and 104 were injured.

"Overall, the number of serious incidents has declined since 1992, but the consequences when something does go wrong are far too large to fail to improve pipeline safety," the NTSB states.

The NTSB calls for improved oversight of the industry to identify potential problems.

"The vast pipeline network covering most of the United States demands our attention," the report states. "Over 175,000 miles of onshore and offshore pipelines carry hazardous liquids, while both onshore and offshore gas transmission and gathering pipelines account for 321,000 miles, and a stunning 2,066,000 miles are dedicated to gas distribution mains and services. The natural gas these pipelines distribute accounts for 24 percent of total energy consumption in the country, while petroleum pipelines account for 39 percent."