The Decade That Changed The Pipeline Industry

NACE Corrosion Roundtable
March 2010 Vol. 237 No. 3

Cliff Johnson, director of Public Affairs at NACE International, The Corrosion Society, recently assembled a panel of NACE pipeline corrosion control experts to answer a series of questions on how recent regulations and developments are affecting the pipeline industry.

“The pipeline industry has seen dramatic regulatory change over the last 10 years and has been impacted by a number of high-profile pipeline failures,” said Johnson. “The relationship between the industry and government has evolved significantly in this time frame, as we work together to ensure public safety and environmental protection with the use of these critical transportation systems.”

The five expert panelists have extensive experience with today’s regulations, standards and corrosion-control methods for oil and gas pipelines. The panelists are Mark Gluskin, senior vice president of Mears Group, Inc.’s Pipeline Integrity Services; Kimberly-Joy Harris, lead corrosion control coordinator at Enbridge Pipelines, Inc.; David H. Kroon, executive vice president and chief engineer of Corrpro Companies, Inc.; David L. Johnson, technical consultant for Panhandle Energy’s Technical Services Department; and Neil G. Thompson, director of the Onshore Pipeline Segment for the Materials and Corrosion Technology Center at DNV Columbus, Inc.

Q: As we look back over the last 10 years, how has the industry improved pipeline safety and integrity? How would you rate the industry in terms of asset preservation, public safety, pipeline integrity, and corrosion?

Johnson: Wow, the last 10 years - that sounds like a lot, and, in fact, it is. Early on, we worked very hard with the federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) to develop a common background, understanding, and basis for Subpart O of the regulations - “Integrity Management.” The implementation of these requirements was accomplished, in part, by the development and application of consensus standards, including several under the auspices of NACE, to provide operators with consistent, technically sound guidance. As we have progressed through the baseline inspection period, we have learned a lot about the threats to pipeline integrity and how to assess them, and we have inspected tens of thousands of miles of transmission pipelines. As this work has progressed, we have eliminated pipeline defects, mitigated risks, and driven technological advances in inline inspection (ILI) technology, direct assessment (DA) methodologies, pressure testing strategies, and analysis of pipeline responses and behavior in the presence of anomalies. We’re not perfect, but the improvements have been significant.

There is no question that improvements have been made in the safety of regulated pipelines over the last decade. These safety improvements and emphasis on pipeline integrity have been a direct result of operator compliance with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulations. With increased testing and inspection, the industry has further enhanced its excellent record for safe operations. There is, however, a need to continue to develop technologies and programs that apply multiple technologies to further corrosion detection and mitigation.