With over 500,000 miles of pipelines crisscrossing the United States, it's inevitable that the pipeline system must at some point cross rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. Because of the heightened sensitivity of these areas, regulatory and industry policy systems are been created to ensure safety and minimize the risk of a pipeline failure near a body of water.
The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is the regulatory body that governs protected pipeline water crossings. Some of their requirements for safety include:
- Requiring pipeline operators to address any conditions, including flooding and a lack of depth of cover, that may adversely impact the safe operation of the pipeline.
- Requiring pipeline operators to assess all threats to their pipelines, including flooding and hurricanes, and take appropriate preventative and mitigative actions.
- Requiring operators at intervals not exceeding five years to inspect each crossing under a navigable waterway to determine the condition and integrity of the pipeline.
The oil and natural gas industry policy takes pipeline water crossing safety beyond the regulatory burden. Examples of industry measures to heighten safety include:
- Surveying crossings to determine the river bed, depth, stability and width to identify those prone to erosion and water channel changes.
- Utilization of real-time monitoring programs and the US Geological Survey (USGS) Water Alert System where available, with pre-established flow rate triggers identifying any potential incidents.