Posted: 16 Jan 2017

Federal regulators published a new set of rules on Friday, Recommendation GAO–12–388, dated March 22, 2012, to strengthen the safety of pipelines carrying hazardous liquids such as crude oil and the natural gas liquids that include the requirement for a leak detection system.

Operators of hazardous liquids pipelines across the U.S. must perform more frequent inspections, extend inspections outside so-called high-consequence areas, and install leak-detection systems on all pipelines. Hazardous liquids also include petroleum and its products, ethane, and anhydrous ammonia.

The measures include extending reporting requirements to gathering lines – those that connect well-heads to larger transmission lines – that are not currently regulated by PHMSA. The new rule strengthens the standards for the maintenance of aging and high-risk infrastructure, increases the frequency and quality of tests, and extends leak-detection requirements, the agency said.

Leak-detection systems, currently required in HCAs only, will be required in all hazardous liquids pipelines, while all lines in those areas will be expected to be equipped with interior inspection equipment within 20 years.

The rules will require pipeline operators to conduct “integrity assessments” on lines outside high-consequence areas (HCAs) at least once every 10 years, in addition to the current requirement to do such inspections for lines inside those areas once every five years.

The rule should be published in the federal register by the end of next week.  For new pipelines constructed after the publication date of this rule, the operator will have 1 year from the date of publication to install a leak detection system; for existing pipelines, the operator has 5 years to install a leak detection system from the date of publication. 

The oil industry’s main trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, said the rules would require operators to attach the same priority to all areas, whether they were classified as high-consequence or not, and that could result in lowering safety standards overall.

PHMSA estimated that as many as 471 pipeline operators will incur costs to comply with the rule and that the annual cost of compliance with all the new requirements will be $17.6 million across the industry.

Sources: Stateimpact, World Pipeline