Controller in pipeline control room requiring support for pipeline leak detection mitigation efforts

NTSB Calls on Operators to Improve Pipeline Leak Detection and Mitigation

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its 2021-2022 Most Wanted List that includes recommended transportation safety improvements across a variety of transportation methods. Specific to the transport of oil and gas by pipeline, the NTSB is focusing on improvements to pipeline leak detection and mitigation.

The NTSB is recommending that PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) require operators to implement “life-saving measures” related to leak detection and mitigation. Specifically, the NTSB believes that “the threat to public safety merits a comprehensive ‘fast-track’ regulatory approach by PHMSA.”

NTSB is calling for operators to optimize their tools and systems to provide warnings of an imminent accident that would allow for quick mitigation to prevent a minor leak from escalating to a larger incident.

From a timing perspective, NTSB is advocating for pipeline operators to implement leak detection and mitigation measures in advance of potential regulation to help shape regulatory action. They noted several action steps that operators should consider taking.

Pipeline Leak Detection Action Recommended By NTSB

NTSB is recommending that pipeline operators perform the following actions.

1. Operators should review and update the following aspects of their pipeline leak detection program:

  • Incident reporting practices.
  • Policies and Procedures for responding to leaks, fires, explosions, and emergency calls.
  • Integrity Management programs.

2. Operators should equip SCADA systems with the appropriate tools to assist in leak detection.

3. Operators should install remote-closure and automatic shutoff valves in high-consequence areas (HCAs) and Class 3 and 4 locations.

NTSB is especially focused on supporting leak detection in HCAs because of a reported 827 leaks on gas transmission systems in HCAs over the past 5 years, according to statistics cited by PHMSA.

Optimize Alarm Management to Support Pipeline Leak Detection

In addition to taking the action described by the NTSB, pipeline operators can minimize the impact of a leak and prevent escalation to an emergency event through a strong Alarm Management program.

Optimizing alarm response and SCADA system enunciation will enable control room personnel to quickly realize situational awareness, follow the steps outlined in your policies and procedures to respond to the leak, and take the appropriate action. The key is to minimize the time required to recognize an event taking place and maximize the amount of vigilance time to act upon what is seen in the control room.

This can be achieved through proper Control Room Management, utilizing an alarm logbook that captures the required action in each operating condition, and having an effective emergency response plan to route communication from the control room to stakeholders.

Download Our Whitepaper to Learn More: Optimizing Emergency Response Through Alarm Management

Utilize Tools to Support Pipeline Leak Detection

From our conversations and experience supporting pipeline operators, one of the primary constraints with pipeline leak detection is a lack of robust software tools to manage each critical area.

Policies and procedures are often disconnected from the implementation of these policies and procedures, logbooks are on paper and not in electronic form, SCADA platforms are not optimized for pipeline operations, and operators lack the support to advance from alarm rationalization to a complete Alarm Management program.

Our goal at EnerSys is to provide affordable software tools to operators that will help you implement the NTSB recommendations to improve pipeline leak detection. Consider the following opportunity to utilize industry-leading leak detection and mitigation tools.

ATMOS partnership: We have partnered with ATMOS International, a leading provider of pipeline leak detection tools, to help operators optimize their Leak Detection Systems (LDS). Using the configurable ATMOS tools, your operation will be equipped to:

  • Detect leaks quickly.
  • Locate leaks accurately.
  • Issue minimal false alarms.
  • Work effectively in all operating conditions.

ALMgr software: The ALMgr software module in our company’s POEMS™ Control Room Management software suite (CRM Suite) supports Alarm Management and your control room in the following ways:

  • Centralizes your leak detection and emergency response policies and procedures.
  • Supports risk-based alarm rationalizing to perform effective alarming.
  • Expedites the alarm rationalization process.
  • Helps to identify safety-related alarms.
  • Generates Alarm Response Sheets (ARS) for controllers to quickly and effectively respond to alarms.
  • Identifies and supports the corrective action relating to bad actor alarms.
  • Provides access to a detailed and easy-to-use logbook that captures a variety of log types (operations, abnormal operating conditions, and operating notices).

Pipeline SCADA software: We offer a SCADA software solution that is specifically designed for oil and gas pipeline control rooms. We also deliver fully-compliant High-Performance HMI to optimize the connection between SCADA and HMI for pipeline controllers. This includes the development of an HMI Philosophy and Style Guide that enables controllers to achieve situational awareness in all operating conditions — Normal, Abnormal, Emergency, or Crisis response — when responding to leak alarms generated from the field.

We encourage you to introduce these tools into your operation so that you can continue to operate safely through effective leak detection and alarm response. We can help through our expertise in identifying the right solution that fits your unique operation.

Call us at 281-598-7100 to schedule a consultation or educational demo of our software tools with our team. You can also email or complete our website contact form to get started. Ask for EnerSys General Manager Ross Adams or VP Business Development Dale Schafer.