Opportunity to Grow Safety and Sustainability in the Nation's Shale Regions
Posted June 30, 2020
Good technical standards and industry practices are important to safe, sustainable energy infrastructure that is critical to unleashing the benefits of domestic energy – including clean, affordable natural gas.
Major energy players have pointed to new midstream infrastructure investments in the massive Permian region that will allow them to produce more while also improving environmental performance. In addition, this infrastructure will benefit consumers globally through the export of U.S. natural gas – produced right here at home under stringent regulations, many of which point to API’s world-class safety standards that improve environmental performance and sustainability.
Although development has slowed since the COVID-19 outbreak, a longer view is needed: one that recognizes that building out the infrastructure needed to continue the country’s historic energy advances will be all the more important as the nation reopens. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has reported that 38 projects to transport natural gas were completed at the end of 2019, with many more planned for 2020 and beyond.
Key to this continued infrastructure growth is the operational safety and sustainability that API enhances through its standards program. In recent months, API has released two new standards to ensure the safe operation of gathering pipelines, which move natural gas from production sites to treatment plants, and then to the larger interstate pipelines that deliver the fuel to customers and the broader markets.
These include the first edition of Recommended Practice (RP) 1182, addressing safe practices for high-pressure gathering lines in rural areas, and the second edition of RP 80, which provides an updated definition of what constitutes a gathering pipeline, helping operators understand federal and state regulations that will lead to more sustainable development.
This new edition of RP 80 was developed in response to a Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed rulemaking, providing industry with more concise language focusing on clarity and modernization as well as addressing hydraulic fracturing applications, like those prevalent in the shale production fields of the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico and the Bakken Field in North Dakota.
To make the best use of infrastructure in the shale regions, producers and operators need to build gathering line capacity to ultimately feed into the larger inter- and intra-state pipelines.
API’s release of RP 1182 is meant to ensure gathering lines are built and maintained in a way that maximize safety and operation efficiency for the workers and the communities they serve. RP 1182 addresses larger diameter and higher-pressure gas gathering lines, providing a guide to apply industry best practices to them. These include design, construction, testing, corrosion control, maintenance and safe operations.
The new version of RP 80 recognizes that gathering lines have different configurations and uses depending on the operator and the region. Therefore, API updated the gathering line definition to help operators better meet federal and state safety requirements. For example, the new edition of the standard addresses incidental gas gathering lines, which are limited to 20 miles or less for newly constructed pipelines. This ensures that regulatory and industry resources are focused on the highest priority lines, supporting safety and sustainability.
Moreover, these latest safety standards reaffirm industry’s commitment to being proactive in addressing potential issues – to ensure responsible production and delivery of our products so that consumers in both the U.S. and across the globe benefit from our nation’s natural resources.
About The Author
Debra Phillips is senior vice president of API’s Global Industry Services division, which is responsible for standards setting, certification, training, events, publications and safety programs for industry operations. Before joining API, Debra served on the leadership team at the American Chemistry Council, where she was the catalyst behind the chemical industry’s sustainability strategy. She earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Albright College and holds a master’s degree in environmental toxicology from Duke University.
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