As the energy landscape changes globally with the development of tight oil and gas resources, questions about the rail safety and tighter regulations around safety and environment, energy insiders are asking the question; are pipelines still the safest way to transport energy? In a recent study conducted by T.D. Williamson (TDW) (1) this paper uncovers some current industry trends, drivers and restraints that will shape the pipelines landscape for the future. The study looked at regional trends, technology applications and future project developments in the pipelines arena and how this is influencing how pipelines are being designed, installed and utilized.
The study identified that there were four distinct pipeline “themes” over the pipeline life cycle, which comprise:
• Infrastructure – pipeline new build for growth, replacement and expansion,
• Integrity Management – management of the integrity for new and existing pipelines,
• Flow Assurance & Throughput – optimizing throughput and uptime for new and existing pipelines,
• Management of Human Capital – acquiring, developing and retaining competent people or outsourcing.
The paper will discuss how these needs imbedded in these themes are met or, as in some cases, unmet.
The paper also looks at developments in materials for new pipelines, pipeline monitoring and leak detection (from cables to dogs to, unmanned vehicles), newer products that are being shipped (from higher hydrogen content methane gas to carbon dioxide from capture schemes to diluted bitumen from the oil sands), the impact of “big data” (from Mb to Yb), and how operators are looking to manage emergencies (from spill response to emergency planning and operational readiness).
This paper will compare safety records for energy transportation as well as the new demands being put on energy companies that will propose an answer to the question posed in the title.