The shale revolution means American refiners and petrochemical manufacturers can use more domestic resources instead of importing crude oil from other countries. To secure our domestic energy resources, we need to grow our infrastructure. Oil and natural gas must be delivered safely to fuel our homes, businesses, and the American economy. Pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to get the job done.
The Department of Transportation says that pipelines are the safest mode of energy transportation. According to the Department's data, 99.999997% of gas and crude oil is moved safely through interstate transmission pipelines. Statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board show pipelines make up less than one one-hundredth of one percent (0.01%) of all transportation accidents in the U.S.
Beginning with the planning process, pipeline companies work with key stakeholders to address safety and security issues. Owner-operators implement pipeline integrity management plans that consider all stages of the pipeline life cycle, from conception and design, to engineering and construction, to operation and inspection. These integrity management plans incorporate a wide variety of innovative techniques to ensure the safe transport of energy products. For example, integrity management programs can include the use of infrared / thermal imaging to identify leaks and complex risk and data analysis to constantly evaluate pipeline performance. Some pipeline inspections using robotic devices called “smart pigs” (due to the squealing sound they make as they travel through the pipeline) to evaluate the inside of pipelines to ensure they are safe.
Pipeline operators are constantly monitoring pipeline performance. Specifically, pipeline operators are continuously collecting data on their system to inform and update risk analyses. Pipeline control rooms are operated by highly qualified technicians trained to monitor pipeline operations and to quickly respond to any potential release. Armed with emergency response plans, they deploy resources and work with local first responders to reduce the impacts of any incident. They also work with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board to determine incident causes, fix problems, and work with state and local agencies to improve pipeline safety.
Pipeline operating companies follow the Department of Transportation’s pipeline Integrity Management Program to maintain and regularly inspect pipelines. Since the implementation of integrity management programs in 1990, pipeline incidents and leaks have fallen dramatically.