US transportation board to hold pipeline safety hearing

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has scheduled a Nov. 15-16 hearing at its Washington, DC, offices to explore pipeline safety issues. NTSB said recent pipeline accidents have raised concerns about the nation's aging pipeline infrastructure.


The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has scheduled a Nov. 15-16 hearing at its Washington, DC, offices to explore pipeline safety issues. NTSB said recent pipeline accidents have raised concerns about the nation's aging pipeline infrastructure.

In June 1999, a pipeline accident in Bellingham, Wash., killed three persons. Last August, an accident in Carlsbad, NM, killed 12 persons. NTSB said the section of pipe that ruptured near Carlsbad was nearly 50 years old.

"Many of the hazardous liquid and natural gas transmission pipelines in our country are 30 to 50 years old. Although age alone does not indicate that a pipeline may be unsafe, determining the integrity of pipelines becomes increasingly important as our pipeline systems age," said a statement from the board.

The hearing, said NTSB, will provide a forum to examine technologies available to assess the integrity of pipelines, such as use of internal inspection tools, and the capability of pipeline operating systems to identify leaks and prompt timely responses. It will also review ongoing research in those areas.

Also prompting the meeting, said NTSB, were current investigations of six pipeline accidents that occurred in 1999-2000. Five of those six accidents, it said, involve "controllers who may have failed to promptly recognize pipeline ruptures and then initiate timely action to reduce the consequences of the spill."

Jim Hall, Safety Board chairman, said: "The safe transportation of natural gas and liquid petroleum products by pipeline is vital to meeting the energy needs of every community in our country. However, during the past two years, we have seen several failures involving aging pipelines. It is time to examine the technologies available to assess the condition of our pipeline systems."

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