Pipeline companies are facing an unprecedented era of challenges at an industry-wide scale. Recent incidents have increased public attention and criticism, cast doubts over the industry’s safety performance, and resulted in growing regulatory pressures. However, such a story is not unique to the pipeline sector. Other high-risk industries have experienced similar trials, and history may provide a blueprint for pipeline operators to follow.
This paper examines industries which have undergone significant changes in behavior due to catastrophic incidents. To address safety performance issues, public outcry and regulatory concerns, these industries emphasized the need for greater collaboration. Whether through encouragement of best practices via self-governance models, increased learning from incidents through sharing of data, or providing support to companies that were lagging behind, they concluded that it was imperative to move forward in a coordinated, collaborative fashion. Companies could no longer be satisfied with exceptional performance within their own walls, as they were ultimately answerable to the performance of their industry as a whole.
In many ways the pipeline industry has similar challenges to face. The relatively low frequency of high consequence incidents means that it is difficult for any single operator to gather statistically meaningful trends. ILI technology requires vast quantities of data to understand, validate and improve performance; quantities beyond what any single operator is likely to possess. No operator can effectively address the challenges of today’s environment single-handedly. It is only through coordinated, collaborative engagement throughout industry that rapid and meaningful improvement to pipeline safety will be achieved.
This paper suggests a variety of possible strategies and is intended to encourage discussion among leadership and managers regarding how the pipeline industry can come together more effectively to address industry safety issues in a unified fashion.