PIPELINE SAFETY OFFICE
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Pipeline safety laws fall under federal authority in Title 49, United States Code. Chapter 601 of Title 49 establishes the framework for promoting pipeline safety via federal authority for regulation of interstate pipeline facilities and federal delegation to the states for all or part of the responsibility for intrastate pipeline facilities under an annual certification or agreement. Arkansas Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, Ark. Code Ann. §23-15-201 et seq. (Title 23, Subtitle 1, Chapter 15, Subchapter 2) empowers the Arkansas Public Service Commission to obtain a certification with the federal government to regulate gas pipeline safety of intrastate natural gas operators. The Commission's Pipeline Safety Office enforces pipeline safety rules contained in the Arkansas Gas Pipeline Code.
The Pipeline Safety Office inspects four natural gas distribution utilities, twenty-six intrastate natural gas operators and 163 master meter gas systems (mobile home parks, apartment complexes, housing authorities, etc.) for operating safety, gas leakage, and the control of corrosion. The inspections ensure that gas operators are in compliance with the Arkansas Gas Pipeline Code. The Pipeline Safety Office is responsible for 1,761 miles of intrastate gas transmission and gathering pipelines, 20,352 miles of gas distribution mains, and 676,413 gas service lines.
The Pipeline Safety Office works closely with the Federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS). OPS is directly responsible for interstate gas pipelines and all liquid hydrocarbon pipelines in the state. Our office is in OPS's Southwest Region located in Houston, TX. Each year, OPS evaluates the Pipeline Safety Office's program for compliance with federal certification requirements. The Pipeline Safety Office consistently receives high evaluations from OPS. The OPS maintained data for the State of Arkansas may be found at the following link: PHMSA data for Arkansas
Statistics indicate that transporting natural gas through pipelines is the safest mode of transportation. As long as natural gas flows through a closed controlled system, it remains a safe product. Only when gas unexpectedly escapes from a pipeline does it have the potential to be a hazard to life, property and the environment. There are many causes and contributors to pipeline failures. OPS compiles data on pipeline accidents and their causes. In Arkansas 29% of pipeline incidents are caused by material/weld/equipment failure and excavation damage is the second most common cause with 23%. Other causes of pipeline accidents and incidents are categorized and include:
- Natural Force Damage (Earth movement, earthquakes, landslides, subsidence, lightning, heavy rains/floods, washouts, floatation, mudslides, scouring, temperature, frost heave, frozen components, high winds)
- Excavation Damage (Direct excavation by the operator or their contractors, third party excavators, damage from previous excavation activity)
- Other Outside Force Damage (Non-excavation related, man-made, fire, explosion, damage by vehicles or equipment, mechanical, intentional damage due to vandalism and terrorism)
- Pipe, Weld or Joint Failure (Failure due to manufacturing procedures, poor construction, fabrication process, or installation)
- Equipment Failure (Malfunction of equipment)
- Incorrect Operation (Failure resulted from operating, maintenance, repair, or errors by operator personnel)
- Other Incident Cause (Unknown cause at the time of incident and the conclusion of all investigation activities)
To avoid a potential pipeline accident caused by excavation, have the location of all utility lines marked before excavating by hand or with equipment. In fact, to comply with The Arkansas Underground Damage Prevention Act, Ark. Code Ann §14-271-101 et. seq. (Title 14, Subtitle 16, Chapter 271), a person must contact Arkansas One-Call at 1-800-482-8998 a minimum of two days before excavation commences. After Arkansas One-Call is contacted, the following will happen.
- Operators with underground facilities in the area where the excavation is planned are notified. This includes natural gas and power utilities, communications companies, and cities and towns.
- Within 48 hours after being contacted, operator crews either mark their underground facilities with color-coded paint marks or flags, or tell the excavator they have no lines in the area.
If a contractor is performing the excavation work, a person should make sure that his/her contractor calls Arkansas One-Call two days prior to the commencement of excavating.
Chief, Pipeline Safety
Arkansas Public Service Commission