Interstate natural gas transmission pipelines have performed some standardized integrity management processes since the inception of ASME B3.18 in 1942. These standardized practices have been always preceded by new technology and individual company efforts to improve processes. These standardized practices have improved through the decades through newer consensus standard editions and the adoption of pipeline safety regulations (49 CFR Part 192).
The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act which added to the list of these improved practices was passed at the end of 2002 and has been recently reaffirmed in January of 2012. The law applies to natural gas transmission pipeline companies and mandates additional practices that the pipeline operators must conduct to ensure the safety and integrity of natural gas pipelines with specific safety programs.
Central to the 2002 Act is the requirement that pipeline operators implement an Integrity Management Program (IMP), which among other things requires operators to identify so-called High Consequence Areas (HCAs) on their systems, conduct risk analyses of these areas, and perform baseline integrity assessments and reassessments of each HCA, according to a prescribed schedule and using prescribed methods. The 2002 Act formalized, expanded and standardized the Integrity Management (IM) practices that individual operators had been conducting on their pipeline systems. The recently passed 2012 Pipeline Safety Act has expanded this effort to include measures to improve the integrity of the total transmission pipeline system.
In December 2010, INGAA launched a voluntary initiative to enhance pipeline safety and communicate the results to stakeholders. The efforts are focused on analyzing data that measures the effectiveness of safety and integrity practices, detects successful practices, identifies opportunities for improvement, and further focuses our safety performance by developing an even more effective integrity management process. During 2011, a group chartered under the Integrity Management Continuous Improvement initiative(IMCI) identified information that may be useful in understanding the safety progress of the INGAA membership as they implemented their programs that were composed of the traditional safety practices under DOT Part 192, the PHMSA IMP regulations that were codified in 2004 and the individual operator voluntary programs.
The paper provides a snapshot, above and beyond the typical PHMSA mandated reporting, of the results from the data collected and analyzed from this integrity management activity on 185,000 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines operated by interstate natural gas transmission pipelines.
Natural gas transmission pipeline companies have made significant strides to improve their systems and the integrity and safety of their pipelines in and beyond HCAs. Our findings indicate that over the course of the data gathering period, pipeline operators’ efforts are shown to be effective and are resulting in improved pipeline integrity. Since the inception of the IMP and the expanded voluntary IM programs, the probability of leaks in the interstate natural gas transmission pipeline system continues on a downward slope, and the number of critical repairs being made to pipe segments that are being reassessed under integrity programs, both mandated and voluntary, are decreasing dramatically.
Even with this progress, INGAA members committed in 2011 to embarking on a multi-year effort to expand the width and depth of integrity management practices on the interstate natural gas transmission pipeline systems. A key component of that extensive effort is to design metrics to measure the effectiveness to achieve the goals of that program. As such, this report documents the performance baseline before the implementation of the future program.