In our September issue, Pipelines International published an important article from the American Petroleum Institute (API) announcing the publication of its new Recommended Practice (RP) 1173 – entitled Pipeline safety management systems – which is intended to ‘achieve zero pipeline incidents’. The RP is the result of two years of collaboration between the industry, the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the country’s Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Public stakeholders and academia were also a part of the RP’s development and approval.
The new RP takes important ideas from other industries in order to address pipelines specifically. A key component is the requirement for operators to have an ‘evergreen’ system, the core principle of which is the ‘plan-do-check-act’ cycle, which necessitates companies to determine the steps needing to be taken, complete these, periodically review them, and then enact any necessary changes or improvements. Ultimately, the API intends that this requirement will drive the industry toward its zero incident goal by ensuring that the various components of the safety management system (SMS – not to be confused with ‘short message service’) are regularly reviewed and continually evolve.
In its article, the API points out that this RP differs from its other publications because of the performance-based nature of its approach. Where many standards are prescriptive and provide a detailed checklist that has to be completed, this RP allows operators to determine what specific tactics are needed to ensure success in their SMS’s implementation. Periodic checks of the process will be required, ensuring the company is constantly evaluating and improving, leading to an effective safety culture.
In late October, the NTSB announced that RP 1173 ‘exceeded the Safety Board’s recommendation to facilitate the development of a safety management system standard specific to the pipeline industry.’
The NTSB issued its recommendation that gave rise to the API’s decision to prepare RP 1173 as a result of its investigation of the July 2010 rupture of a 30 inch diameter pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge Incorporated which released more than 840,000 gallons of crude oil into nearby wetlands and a creek that flowed into the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. Unaware that the pipeline had ruptured, the operator’s staff continued pumping oil into the ruptured pipeline for 17 hours until a local utility worker discovered the oil and contacted the company.
The rupture was caused by fatigue cracks that grew and coalesced from crack and corrosion defects under the disbonded polyethylene tape coating. The NTSB found that contributing to the accident were weak regulations for assessing and repairing crack indications, as well as ineffective oversight of pipeline integrity management programmes, weak pipeline control centre procedures, and a low level of public awareness.
To address this recommendation, the API formed its multi-stakeholder group which met monthly, surveyed the public, and created this important new framework for the pipeline industry’s goal of continuous safety improvement. As the NTSB points out, the API RP 1173 establishes a pipeline safety management system framework for organisations that operate hazardous liquid and gas pipelines that fall under the jurisdiction of the US’ Department of Transportation.
“Improving safety is a collaborative effort,” the NTSB’s Chairman Christopher Hart said recently. “API’s broad and inclusive approach to addressing our safety recommendation shows [its] commitment to increasing safety in the pipeline industry.” He went on to thank the API and all the participants who assisted in developing the new document. “We call upon the industry for a widespread adoption of these Recommended Practices, from the largest international pipeline operating companies to the smallest municipalities, to ensure continuous improvement and safety in pipeline operations,” he said.
As a result of the accident investigation, the NTSB issued 19 safety recommendations to seven entities. Action has been successfully completed on nine of these recommendations, including the API recommended practice; work is progressing on the remaining ten recommendations.
Bearing in mind the increasing significance of cracks to the pipeline industry, the forthcoming edition of the Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management (PPIM) conference will have a specific session in which issues involving locating and identifying cracks in pipeline walls, and assessing their severity, will be discussed. Technologies are rapidly emerging and being evaluated for this specific task. Full details of this session and the programme for the overall event (being held in Houston on 8-11 February) can be found on page 54 or at www.clarion.org.