As the natural gas industry grows within the United States, so does the traffic across domestic pipelines. With an increased carrying capacity, many regulatory agencies have found the need for additional safety rules and regulations. While the industry itself has been split upon whether or not some of these safety rules are strictly necessary, the Department of Transit’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will be seeing the implementation of them shortly.
Proposed Changes to Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Rules
Many of the new safety protocols are targeted towards natural gas pipelines traveling through rural areas, which has previously been mostly unregulated. Safety rules will now restrict the areas that these pipelines can move through, how deep they should be buried, and whether they should be buried at all. Currently, natural gas pipelines that move through rural areas don’t need to be marked, which could potentially pose a threat. In the past, injuries and even fatalities have occurred when rural pipelines were struck by construction equipment. As there were no regulations regarding these pipelines, there were no fines or click charges levied. In addition to changes to rural regulations, pressure testing has been recommended throughout the pipeline system, to reduce potential leaks and failures.
Enforcing the Rules of the Natural Gas Pipeline
In practice, the largest challenge of the new safety protocols will be ensuring that they are followed. There are only a total of 243 individuals currently hired by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to conduct such inspections. An additional 109 employees are expected to be hired in the near future, which may account for these increased regulations. Increased regulatory standards regarding rural routes may make it more feasible for natural gas pipelines to continue expanding outward, as is necessary to provide natural gas at affordable prices throughout the nation. Ideally, these changes will make it easier for organizations who are interested in public safety to remain competitive, as all companies will be under the same pressures to maintain strict security standards. It remains to be seen how disruptive the changes will be.
These new regulations are primarily related to explosions that have occurred within the last decade, as the natural gas boom created additional pressures on the current pipeline system. Most companies will find that they will need to test out their pipeline system and that they will have to follow stricter standards regarding their rural routes. Pipelines that were built before the 1970s may need to be replaced if they fail pressure testing.
Beyond this, there shouldn’t be significant changes except for increased inspections, but additional regulations and standards may be coming as the industry continues to grow. Organizations should take proactive measures to make sure that their safety protocols and equipment are up to par. The professionals at Keystone Containment can help those within the oil industry with any of their secondary containment and leak mitigation needs.