Safety, Shale, Midstream Construction Discussed At Pipeline Opportunities Conference

By Rita Tubb, Managing Editor | July 2011, Vol. 66 No. 7

The seventh annual Pipeline Opportunities Conference, presented by Pipeline & Gas Journal and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), was held April 19 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Houston.

The event drew more than 400 attendees who came to hear 16 key industry executives discuss activities and issues related to today’s challenges for U.S. oil and gas pipelines. Pipeline safety was also a considerable focus of this year’s program along with an Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline update and a session on new pipeline construction opportunities.

In the opening session, Peter Lidiak, pipeline director at the American Petroleum Institute, gave an upbeat overview of the liquids pipeline industry’s pronounced decline in pipeline spills and causes from 2007–2009. He also shared data that reflected a dramatic improvement in the liquids pipeline industry’s onshore spill record and illustrated the fact that releases were down for every major failure cause.

The API official was quick to point out that while the numbers are good and show improvement, they’re not good enough. Lidiak said, “We’re working to see what more can be done to achieve no releases to the environment and no fatalities or injuries, while providing reliable service to shippers, customers and communities.”

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In outlining some of the spill causes, Lidiak noted that third-party damage has dropped by two-thirds. “This is good to see,” he said, “not because it accounts for the highest number of spills, because it doesn’t.”

Instead, he noted, that while third-party damage accounted for only about 7 percent of all excavation damage incidents, it caused most of the injuries and deaths that occur.

Other highlights of the session included a presentation by NACE President Oliver Moghissi Ph.D. who discussed the communication gap between corrosion specialists and corporate decision makers. He said most corporate decision makers understand financial risk but typically lack information to optimize corrosion management. Nevertheless, he said most assets are safely operated and well-preserved.

INGAA projections
INGAA Foundation Executive Director Richard Hoffmann explained the group’s commitment to safe and reliable pipeline operations. He included a compelling perspective on infrastructure projections through 2035 from a soon-to-be released update to the Foundation’s 2009 infrastructure study.

The report, prepared by ICF International, evaluates a host of issues ranging from U.S. economic growth to trends and statistics for shale gas.