Pipeline inspections ahead of schedule

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Mar. 7 -- Pipeline operators are ahead of schedule in conducting federally mandated pipeline integrity assessments, the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) told Congress in a joint letter.

Nearly 60% of the most sensitive oil pipelines were inspected by September 2004, exceeding the requirement that half be inspected by that time.

The integrity assessment regulation, issued in December 2001 by the US Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), increases the types and frequency of testing and inspections the industry must perform to prevent incidents.

AOPL and API said their members "have met 100% of the rule deadlines." By the end of September, 59% of pipeline operators had inspected 65% of their high consequence lines; 27% had completed 75%; and 9% had assessed 80-100% of required pipelines.

September marked the halfway point for federal compliance with integrity assessments of all "high consequence" pipeline segments that could have an impact on populated areas, drinking water, habitats for endangered species, or commercial navigation.

Testing of high consequence lines is required for all operators of crude oil and refined products pipelines, and it affects 40% of the 160,000-mile national pipeline network. However, AOPL and API estimate that as much as 80% of the national network will be inspected by 2008 because of the configuration of many of their members' pipelines.

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