New Century and Integrity Plus Blog

Planning, Preparation and Prevention: Pipeline Safety Before, During and After a Hurricane

Posted by Sarah on Sep 15, 2017 9:30:00 AM

June through November are known as the Atlantic Hurricane Season; and according to PHMSA, the Gulf Coast supplies 18% of the oil and 6% of the natural gas produced in the US. Production interruptions caused by hurricanes are capable of triggering supply shortages to Gulf Coast refiners, and a subsequent rise in gasoline prices.

The Houston-area is recovering from the devastation Hurricane Harvey inflicted just a few weeks ago, while Florida attempts to re-build after Irma roared through, with Jose right on her heels. Although Jose is projected to remain out at sea, hurricanes can be very unpredictable, leaving an uncertain future for the East Coast.

At New Century and Integrity Plus, we specialize in planning, preparation, and preventative pipeline integrity. Natural disasters are no exception. We have gathered information on establishing a plan for hurricane preparedness, the threats pipelines and refineries can face during a hurricane, and how to get back up and running post-storm. 

Before:

  • Consider design standards during construction and/or reassess regularly if you operate in or near coastal waters:
  • Establish a Plan of Action BEFORE a threat presents itself:
    • Organize a Damage Survey and Repair team, then evacuate non-essential personnel.
    • The core group that stays behind begins shutting down production and securing equipment:
      • Be prepared to anchor or restrain everything that could blow away with netting for dumpsters, banding tools for lumber, form work, scaffold planks, port-a-potties, etc. Look and see what will fly, then restrain it.
      • Work with utilities to clarify priorities for electric power restoration critical to restarting operations and to help minimize significant disruptions to fuel distribution and delivery.

During:

  • Core group evacuates and remotely monitors and operates equipment, as needed.
  • Threats: Wind, Wave & Water:
    • Hurricane-induced currents
    • Storm Surges and Flooding
    • Uprooted trees

After:

  • Post-storm inspections of the pipeline infrastructure:
    • Aerial inspection by helicopter, ASAP.
    • Once safety concerns have been assessed, work crews may return to evaluate the damage and begin executing a remobilization plan.
    • Offshore pipelines damaged require the hiring of divers, repairs, and safety inspections before supplies can flow. Damaged onshore pipelines must be assessed, repaired, and inspected before resuming operations.
  • Consider applying for Pipeline Emergency Special Permits:
    • Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, DOT/PHMSA issued an Emergency Special Permit to waive compliance from certain hazardous liquids requirements of 49 CFR Part 195 for the operation of two terminals in New Jersey.
      • The waiver allowed the operator to operate their facilities manually with personnel that were not qualified to Part 195 Subpart G. The non-Part 195 Subpart G individuals were required to be under the direction of qualified personnel, but would not be directly observed by qualified individuals. Ultimately, this waiver allowed the operator to increase the output of product to nearly normal levels following the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

To continue tracking storm activity throughout the season, check out Esri’s Hurricane and Cyclone Public Information Map. To assess the potential risk to your pipelines and potential impact if the pipe is damaged in a storm, see how we can assist through the use of our Spatial Risk Analyst and Spill Impact Analyst applications and services.

Topics: Pipeline Safety, damage prevention, Natural Disaster

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