Pipeline Safety

Pipelines are by far the safest method for transporting energy products. The energy products carried in pipelines fuel our lives and our livelihoods. They heat our homes and schools, power our industrial base, and enable our daily commutes.

While serious pipeline incidents are rare, pipelines can and sometimes do rupture, posing serious risk.

That's why pipeline companies encourage everyone to learn about pipelines and the products they carry, as well as a few simple steps all of us can take to ensure pipeline safety in our communities.

Recognizing a Pipeline Incident

A pipeline incident exists when there is a pipeline leak, fire, explosion, natural disaster, accidental release or operational failure that disrupts normal operating conditions.

Pipeline control center personnel keep a watchful eye over potential incidents by constantly monitoring the daily operation of pipelines. As a result, pipeline operators are able to minimize the impact of leaks and prevent incidents by remotely initiating emergency shutdowns, starting and stopping pumps, and opening and closing valves.

Despite the industry’s best efforts to monitor and protect pipelines, incidents can happen. Pipelines that were built years ago in rural areas may now lie beneath populated areas. A minor scrape or dent from construction and excavation activities can cause a break or leak in these pipelines.

Signs of a Pipeline Release

You can recognize a pipeline incident by using your senses of sight, sound and smell.

     Dying vegetation on green corridor

Mist or cloud of vapor
     Sheen or film on water

Petroleum on the ground
     Water bubbling or standing in unusual areas

Fire or Explosion

     A hissing, whistling or roaring noise

     Strange and unusual gaseous or chemical odors

What to Do If You Suspect a Leak

  1. Immediately leave the area
  2. If possible, turn off any equipment being used in or near the suspected leak. Abandon any equipment being used and move upwind from the suspected leak
  3. From a safe location, call 911 or your local emergency response number & the pipeline company. Call collect, if needed, and give your name, phone number, description of the leak, and its location
  4. Warn others to stay away when possible

What NOT to Do If You Suspect a Leak

  • Do not touch, breathe, or make contact with the leaking fluids or gas. Stay upwind if possible
  • Do not light a match, start an engine, use a telephone, turn on or off any type of electrical switch such as a light, garage door opener, etc., or do anything that may create static or a spark
  • Do not attempt to extinguish any pipeline fire that may start
  • Do not drive into a leak or vapor cloud area. Automobile engines can ignite vapors
  • Do not attempt to operate any valves

Preventing Pipeline Damage

Pipeline Operator Efforts for Pipeline Safety

In response to federal regulations and in accordance with corporate commitments to protect our communities, pipeline operators use several damage prevention measures to monitor and ensure safe pipeline operation. These include:
  • Regular internal inspections & integrity tests
  • Ongoing pipeline maintenance programs
  • Routine patrol & visual inspection of pipeline right-of-ways
  • Satellite & other remote communication technologies
  • Constant pipeline monitoring
  • Participation in state one-call underground damage prevention programs
  • Pipeline marker program
  • Pipeline Integrity Management Plan (IMP)
  • Emergency response plans
Though operational disruptions are infrequent, pipeline operators go to great efforts to be prepared for any type of incident. Pipeline operators:
  • Develop emergency response & crisis management plans
  • Accumulate manpower & equipment necessary to respond to incidents quickly
  • Develop extensive training & drill programs
  • Work closely with federal, state & local agencies to prepare for & respond effectively to an incident