Industry-Led Efforts Improve Pipeline Safety Performance
Posted May 18, 2020
America’s extensive network of pipelines and energy infrastructure safely connects our abundant natural gas and oil resources with refineries, businesses and consumers. The U.S. liquids pipeline system, which stretches more than 218,000 miles, delivered 21.8 billion barrels of crude oil and refined products in 2018 – the essential link between domestic energy and Americans’ daily lives.
The industry’s commitment to safety and sustainability, through industry-led reporting, standards-setting and performance initiatives, has contributed to ongoing improvements in pipeline operations. This month, API and our partner associations released two new reports that show declining pipeline-related incidents and continuous improvement in environmental performance – both enhanced by growing use of safety management systems.
The 2019 Pipeline Safety Excellence Performance Report details a 36% decrease in liquids pipeline incidents impacting people or the environment over the past five years, even as pipeline mileage and barrels delivered increased nearly 10% and 35%, respectively. This data, available publicly from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, demonstrates the industry’s ability to meet growing energy demand while protecting the health and safety of workers, communities and the environment.
API Pipeline Manager David Murk commented:
“Pipelines are the safest and most environmentally friendly way of transporting the energy Americans rely on every day. This year’s report highlights our industry’s strong commitment to safety and reliability, showing significant reductions in total incidents while we continue to reliably and efficiently deliver the energy that keeps working families, small businesses and first responders moving.”
For liquids and natural gas pipeline operators, API Recommended Practice (RP) 1173, Pipeline Safety Management Systems (Pipeline SMS), originally published in 2015, is essential to overseeing pipeline safety and promoting the industrywide implementation of best practices. Key performance indicators related to RP 1173 are highlighted in the Pipeline Safety Management Systems 2019 Annual Report, with survey results showing that the majority of operators are using Pipeline SMS to improve their overall performance and safety culture.
Angela Kolar, vice president and chief risk officer with Colonial Pipeline and SMS Industry Team Chair, stated:
“The past five years have been an increasing evolution for Pipeline Safety as we continue to strive for zero incidents. More and more company leaders are committing to PSM. The rate at which companies are performing gap assessments continues to rise and, more importantly, companies are implementing measures to address their identified gaps.”
Pipeline SMS implementation has progressed steadily since the industry began surveying operators, and last year, the annual survey represented 57% of the industry at nearly 1.6 million miles – up from less than 10% in 2016. Moving forward, the industry is focused on increasing participation, supporting operator journeys with training and education, engaging external stakeholders and ensuring effective oversight.
These two reports illustrate the liquids pipeline industry’s progress in pursuit of its goal of zero incidents. By demonstrating progress through continuous improvement – and with the deployment of sophisticated technologies – America’s natural gas and oil industry has proven that it’s possible to meet our demand for affordable, reliable fuels in a way that prioritizes worker safety and environmental stewardship.
About The Author
Sam Winstel is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. He comes to API from Edelman, where he supported communications marketing strategies for clients across the firm’s energy and federal government practices. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Sam graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina, and he currently resides in Washington, D.C.
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