Today’s oil and natural gas gathering pipelines are constructed and maintained to ensure the safe transport of the commodities for decades to come. A combination of the use of quality materials, high construction standards, design considerations, adherence to state and federal regulations and a century of pipeline technology merge to create confidence in the installation and operation of the natural gas and oil pipeline system.
Epoxy-coated, high-grade steel pipe, which is used to build oil and gas gathering pipeline systems, plays an important safety role. The protective coating and heavy wall thickness of the pipe inhibit corrosion and minimize any possibilities of a leak. Additional corrosion mitigation programs, which include cathodic protection, internal corrosion monitoring and internal corrosion inhibitors, further ensure the longevity of pipeline systems. To ensure quality installation, X-rays are taken on-site to ensure the integrity of the welds and hydrostatic testing after completion of construction uses high water pressure to verify that the pipeline is strong and has an airtight seal.
Pipelines are operated under specific federal and state regulations, as well as industry standards intended to ensure the safety and health of the public and the environment. Gathering lines in populated and environmentally sensitive areas are regulated and controlled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. PHMSA (for regulated oil pipelines) and the Wyoming Public Service Commission (for regulated natural gas pipelines) are the agencies authorized in Wyoming to enforce safety regulations and to perform pipeline inspections as necessary to ensure compliance. Chesapeake designs pipelines to meet or exceed standards required by regulatory entities, as well as industry standards, by using appropriate safety factors for pipe design specifications. Factors that influence the safety factor selected include the pressure at which the pipeline will operate, the location of the line and whether the line is in oil or gas service.
The location of valve sites is another safety component built into the pipeline infrastructure. Valve sites are needed at specific intervals, as regulated by the federal or state government, so that the flow of oil or gas may be shut off to a particular area of the pipeline. Locations are selected based on factors including accessibility, the product in the line, proximity to the public, operational necessity and spacing standards. In the unlikely event that a leak or other emergency occurs, valve sites allow for swift containment of the oil or gas stream by shutting off affected sections of the pipeline.
Regulatory agencies employ trained and experienced inspectors who periodically inspect or audit pipeline companies and their facilities for compliance with the regulations. The inspectors typically perform periodic audits on pipelines that are in service. These inspections may, however, occur more frequently if necessary. The auditor may look at documents, records or pipeline sites in the course of an audit, in addition to interviewing responsible personnel to evaluate pipeline safety.
PHMSA provides regulatory guidance for pipeline companies to develop, implement and evaluate public education and awareness programs. Chesapeake is fully committed to promoting the safety of our pipelines through increased public awareness and knowledge of those living and working alongside our pipeline systems. We also work closely with local public officials, emergency responders and excavators to ensure public safety.
Key safety information includes instructions on contacting Chesapeake in the event of an emergency, recognizing and responding to a leak, identifying pipeline locations and being proactive on underground damage prevention. This is accomplished through the mailing of educational materials, media advertising, participation in public meetings and educational associations, promoting the company’s website and a variety of other methods. For more information on public awareness and pipeline safety, visit www.chesapeakemidstream.com.