PHMSA Proposes Bolstered Hazmat Pipeline Requirements

Posted on 10/12/2015 by Roger Marks

In the October 12, 2015 Federal Register, the US DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed changes to the regulations for pipelines that carry liquid hazardous materials.

Among the changes for hazmat pipelines, EPA proposes to:
  • Expand the reporting requirements for all hazardous liquid gravity and gathering lines;
  • Require inspections of pipelines in areas affected by extreme weather and natural disasters;
  • Require periodic inline integrity assessments of hazardous liquid pipelines locate outside of High-Consequence Areas (HCAs);
  • Require use of leak detection systems on hazardous liquid pipelines in all locations;
  • Modify provisions for pipeline repairs;
  • Require that all pipelines subject to the Integrity Management (IM) requirements be capable of accommodating inline inspection tools within 20 years, except in certain situations; and
  • Issue other “clarifying” amendments.
The proposed rule can be found in the Federal Register, here.

Hazmat pipeline regulated by PHMSA

What Are Gravity and Gathering Lines?

Gravity lines are pipelines that carry product by means of gravity. These lines are usually short and within “tank farms” or other facilities. However, some gravity lines are longer and can build up large amounts of pressure. PHMSA is proposing to add a requirement for operators of all gravity lines to comply with the requirements for submitting annual, safety-related condition and incident reports.

Pipeline “gathering lines” are lines that transport gases or liquids from the source to a processing facility, refinery, or other pipeline. Most gathering lines are found in sparsely populated rural areas and therefore were left unregulated by previous hazmat laws. The new proposed rule will require operators of all gathering lines (onshore, offshore, regulated, or unregulated) to comply with requirements for annual, safety-related condition and incident reports.

Requiring Inspections After Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters

Extreme weather—flooding, hurricanes, and more—have been shown to contribute to pipeline failures and releases. For example, in 2011, after extensive flooding near Laurel, Montana, a pipeline failed and released crude oil into the Yellowstone River.

PHMSA is proposing to require operators to perform an additional inspection within 72 hours of the end of an extreme weather event, or as soon as the area can be safely accessed. If an issue is discovered while performing this inspection, the operator must take actions to remedy the situation and inform the public of any threat.

For a full description of the other elements in PHMSA’s proposed hazmat pipeline rulemaking, read the proposal in the Federal Register here.

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, new rules

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