Pipeline Regulations in the United States
In the United States, regulations have been in place since the 1970’s and have evolved significantly over the past several decades. Congress has considered, adopted, and re-authorized a number of bills focused solely on improved pipeline safety. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has put forward several recommendations to Congress, and these recommendations have been considered and acted upon by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
In the last several years, PHMSA released the text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Title 49, Parts 191 and 192 of the Code of Federal Regulations for Transportation of Natural and Other Gas by Pipeline (the Code) also commonly known as the Gas Mega Rule.
Transmission pipeline operators now must ensure they are familiar with all new proposed mandates and ensure their operations are regulatory compliant by the specified deadline of July 1, 2021.
Pipeline Regulations in Canada
In most cases, the regulations in Canada are developed through technical committees within the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) where the regulators are significantly involved in the process. As such, the CSA standards are incorporated within both Provincial and Federal regulations and form the basis for the requirements.
One additional difference is the application of one CSA standard as the regulatory basis for both natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. This approach is especially helpful for those pipeline operators responsible for transporting a wide range of hydrocarbons.
More recently, The Canadian National Energy Board (NEB) has mandated that a company shall establish, implement and maintain a management system that addresses all aspects of inter-provincial pipeline operation including risk and integrity management.
Similar to pipeline operators in the United States, Canadian Transmission companies must ensure their pipelines are operating with accordance to the CSA standards to remain regulatory compliant.
Risk Management for Pipeline Operations
Developing and implementing a risk management approach that meets the needs of all stakeholders within an organization results in greater efficiency of maintenance and capital dollars, as well as increases the effectiveness of an operator’s pipeline integrity management programs. At a time when greater demands are being placed across the industry to do more within fixed budgets, risk management is essential to meet so many critical business needs.
In the past decade alone, the North American Transmission industry has continually received increased pressure and scrutiny from both Federal and State/Provincial regulators to ensure operations are running effectively for the safety of the public and protection of the environment. While it has been proven that the pipeline industry is the safest and most reliable mode for transporting hydrocarbons, there are often concerns raised about pipeline reliability by those in close proximity to certain projects. As such, as industry advances forward into the next decade and beyond, it is incumbent upon our industry and operators to have a dedicated Risk Management program in place to effectively assess any potential risks using a fact-based and method-driven approach.
The pipeline industry has been required to demonstrate any risk associated with pipeline projects including but not limited to pipe replacement, re-routes, and new construction. Likewise, pipeline operators regularly perform risk assessment to support maintenance decisions and new pipeline projects. Therefore, performing Risk Assessments has become a very effective communication tool to show that operators understand and have worked to effectively mitigate all unacceptable risks to the public and communities we serve and operate in.
Digital Approach for Pipeline Risk Assessments
Pipeline operators that have adapted to current trends and industry approaches have been able to meet and exceed industry expectations and regulatory rulings. Software applications have provided pipeline integrity teams the ability to quickly compile, consolidate and analyze data to perform risk assessments. By reducing the manual process that once was involved, key stakeholders and decision-makers have trusted, proven data available in real-time to make informed decisions for the critical operations of their pipeline assets.
As our industry advances forward into 2021 and beyond, digital transformation has paved the way for the development of new technology solutions and methodologies to support effective and efficient pipeline operations. For Transmission operators to remain at the forefront of industry, it is critical to adapt their existing processes through the use of technology enabled solutions to better achieve efficient operations, accurate risk results, and meet ever-changing regulatory mandates.