Since 2007, the pipeline industry has experienced unparalleled growth driven by the need to satisfy the Nation's energy demand and bring new sources of supply to the market. As a result, PHMSA has stepped up the number of new pipeline construction inspections performed each year and our inspections of these new pipeline projects have discovered a number of issues that if left unresolved could have an impact on the long and short term integrity of the pipeline.
PHMSA uses annual reports from pipeline operators to approximate the miles of newly constructed pipelines each year. The logic, assumptions, and new construction miles are in the report here.
Many of these new pipeline construction projects were constructed in accordance with special permits or the alternative MAOP Rule. Special permits and the alternative MAOP Rule require the operator to implement stringent quality requirements to prove and maintain both short and long term pipeline integrity. Many issues have been discovered that could have impacted pipeline integrity as a result of special permit conditions and alternative MAOP Rule requirements. Through new construction inspections performed during the 2008 through 2010 pipeline construction seasons, PHMSA inspectors discovered issues requiring immediate operator remediation prior to the pipeline being placed in service or requiring pressure reduction to assure pipeline integrity. Issues discovered during PHMSA inspections have included poor quality control and procedures for welding, coating, fittings, hot bends, and pipe; as well as inadequate operator inspection and general construction practices.
PHMSA has met with operators constructing new pipelines on several occasions to discuss issues found during inspection. In an effort to reach out to all member of the pipeline industry, PHMSA hosted a workshop in collaboration with our State partners, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) in April 2009. The objective of the workshop was to inform the public, alert the industry, review lessons learned from inspections, and to improve new pipeline construction practices prior to the 2009 construction season. This website makes available information discussed at the workshop and provides a forum in which to share additional information about pipeline construction concerns. This workshop focused on transmission pipeline construction. A workshop to address distribution pipeline construction was held in April 2010.
In 2009, PHMSA challenged industry leaders to come up with a plan or practice to resolve these issues. A letter was sent by PHMSA to industry trade groups to encourage their members to have quality action plans in place for each new pipeline construction project. PHMSA has received responses from all the trades concerning their efforts to resolve new pipeline construction issues and enforce and maintain best practices including technical work groups that have developed improved practices to resolve these quality issues.
PHMSA knows how important it is to get pipeline construction right and the potential impact on pipeline integrity that can occur should the pipeline not be constructed to the highest standard. We are committed to continue our focus on new pipeline construction inspections and issues in the years to come.