Pipeline Safety for the Upstream Oil and Gas Industry

Add bookmark

Oil & Gas IQ

Maintaining the integrity of pipelines is essential for the upstream oil and gas industry for a number of reasons. Damaged or inadequate pipelines have the potential to cause serious damage to the environment, pose a safety risk and can impact significantly on an upstream oil and gas company's bottom line.

Figures from a report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) show that between the years 2000 and 2010 there were 2,554 significant incidents relating to pipelines in the United States, which resulted in 576 injuries and 161 fatalities.


Texas had the highest number of significant incidents with 525, followed by Louisiana and California with 223 and 177 respectively.

Enbridge Energy Partner is currently dealing with the effects of a pipeline failure near Marshall, in Michigan—which comes 9th on the NWF list. On July 26th, a leak was detected in the company's Lakehead System and 19,500 barrels of crude oil may have been released before the pipeline was closed.

Elsewhere in the world, upstream oil and gas company BG Group Plc was recently required to close down the flow of oil and natural gas from a field off the west coast of India following a leak in a subsea pipeline, demonstrating that pipeline integrity management continues to be a pressing issue.

Pipeline Safety for the Upstream Oil and Gas Industry

Following the leak from Enbridge Energy's pipeline, which resulted in oil entering the Kalamazoo River, members of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment has been calling on relevant members of the United State administration and upstream oil and gas industry to address the issue of pipeline safety.

Oil from the pipeline, which transports crude oil from Griffith, Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario, initially entered a creek, and when water was detected in the river, Enbridge deployed oil skimmers and absorbent booms.

Edward J Markey, chairman of the subcommittee, and Fred Upton, ranking member of the subcommittee, sent letters to both transportation secretary Ray LaHood and the Enbridge chairman of the board Martha O’Hesse on the subject.

Both letters requested information on what caused the rupture, the leak detection systems in place, clean-up measures being taken and how often the pipeline has leaked in the past five years.

The request was also made for the parties to provide information on when the pipeline was inspected by the Department for Transportation and Enbridge, and if any "of those inspections show evidence of corrosion or maintenance issues that may have contributed to the rupture in the pipeline."

Commenting on the requests, Upton said: "As a leader of the subcommittee that oversees the pipeline safety, rest assured that we will get to the bottom of this disaster."

Ensuring the Integrity of New Pipelines

Upstream oil and gas company Nord Stream started construction of a pipeline which will link the European energy grid with natural gas supplies in Russia in April 2010.

Once completed the €7.4 billion (£6.1 billon), 1,224 km Nord Stream Pipeline will transport Russian natural gas to Germany, where it will then connect with markets in Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom.

To preserve the integrity of the pipe, Nord Stream's partner EUPEC is providing concrete weight coating in thicknesses ranging from 60 millimetres to 110 millimetres in thickness. Each concrete weight coating has a weight of around 13 tonnes, bring the total weight of each section to pipe to around 24 tonnes—which guarantees the stability of the lines on the sea bed.

According to EUPEC, its concrete weight coating "provides negative buoyancy for subsea lines, mechanical protection during handling, transportation and laying operations, and protects the line during its lifetime in a marine environment."

In total 202,000 concrete weight coated steel pipes will be needed to complete the pipeline and so far 100,000 have undergone the process.

The twin pipelines are intended to be operational in 2012 and will transport55 billion cubic metres of natural gas to Europe each year.