Currently, there are more than 2.5 million miles of pipeline crisscrossing the United States. That's enough to encircle the globe 100 times. This network of pipelines exists in all 50 states, and is critical for moving oil and natural gas from where it is extracted to where it is refined into products that heat our homes and power our nation. But most of us are are unaware that this vast network even exists.
And according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, when it comes to delivering oil and natural gas, pipelines are "the most feasible, most reliable and safest way." Simply put: Pipelines are essential to our existence and are irreplaceable, as the volumes of energy products they move are well beyond the capacity of other forms of transportation.
Thanks to the oil and natural gas industry's commitment to the highest standards of safety, 99.999% of oil is delivered safely each year. But the industry is always striving to improve. That has led to the adoption of a "holistic approach to safety."
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." That is really what guides the first portion of the Holistic Approach to Safety.
In-line prevention devices, known in the industry as "smart pigs" are automated machines that scan our nation's pipelines, looking for cracks, dents, and corrosion in the system. The feedback they produce is used to identify areas in need of repair before incidents occur. Coupled with direct assessments from industry professionals inspecting the exterior facing of the pipelines, and utilizing technology that can scan the interior wall, these preventative measures facilitate repairs to problem areas before they can become problems.
While the goal is always 100% safety and zero incidents, the reality is that the industry must always be prepared to address any incidents that do occur swiftly and comprehensively.
Leak detection programs operation 24/7/365. Shut off valves, that can be operated in-person or remotely, provide a mechanism to isolate, control, and limit incidents swiftly. Highly-trained, professional staff monitor our network of pipelines for issues, ready to act quickly to ensure that any incidents are immediately addressed and that any damage is immediately limited and addressed.
In the rare event of an incident, expertly trained professionals are ready to respond at any time of the day or night.
By gaining experience through regular drills and rigorous training, along with coordination with area first-responders, pipeline operators are always ready to take action in the event of an emergency. Spill response plans are always at the ready, in the event of a worst-case scenario.
Prevention. Mitigation. Response. No matter what, the oil and natural gas industry is on guard to make certain that the vital infrastructure of our nation's pipeline system is secure.