Over 30 cars of a freight train derailed near Hyndman, about 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. One car was carrying liquefied petroleum gas and additional cars carried other hazardous materials. If the liquefied petroleum gas had been carried in pipelines, the accident might not have occurred. The cause of the August 2nd incident has not yet been reported, but three train cars, a nearby garage, and a home all caught fire, and flames were reportedly still raging hours later. Thankfully no injuries have been reported, but the derailment has already led to massive disruptions and cost millions of dollars. Roads have been closed and train service between D.C. and Pittsburgh was temporarily suspended.

Such accidents are, unfortunately, becoming something of a regular occurrence in Pennsylvania. In July, another train derailment near Plainfield caused thousands of gallons of crude oil to leak and forced evacuations in the surrounding area, and six cars of another train derailed in Somerset County that same month.

Rail cars are not the only option when it comes to transporting hazardous materials such as liquefied petroleum gas. The fundamental concern with transportation of these types of products is safety, specifically rates of incidents and related injuries or fatalities. Pipelines are a safer alternative to the other modes of transportation. In many places, the lack of pipeline capacity forces producers to use rail to transport their hazardous products. This should encourage regulators to review and approve well-vetted proposals to allow pipeline capacity to accommodate increased production.

In a recent report, Energy Bottleneck: Why America Needs More Pipelines (1) , Charles Hughes, a policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute, analyzed pipeline mileage and incident reports from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). From 2007 to 2016, rail transportation of oil, natural gas, and related products had an average annual incident rate of 2.2 per billion ton-miles, compared to 0.66 for hazardous liquid pipelines. Hazardous liquid pipelines also compare favorably in terms of related injury and fatality rates.

Pipeline safety has greatly improved. The rates of serious incidents fell from an annual average of 0.121 per 1,000 miles of pipeline over the period 1997 to 2001, to 0.111 from 2012 to 2016.

Per PHMSA, Pennsylvania had 13 different operators and more than 3,100 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines in 2016. The state has only had one serious incident for hazardous liquid pipelines since 2000, with no fatalities and one injury.

With domestic energy production increasing, companies will need to transport. Pipelines have lower incident rates than other modes of transportation. Pipeline safety has improved significantly and will continue to do so. Pipelines offer a safer, more reliable option.

Sources: economics21.org

  1. Hughes, 2017, Energy Bottleneck: Why America Needs More Pipelines

By: Atmos International
Date: 11 October 2019