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NTSB Most Wanted List - Real-Time Data For Leak Detection

NTSB Most Wanted List: Using Real-Time Data to Support Leak Detection

In September 2010, a pipeline incident in San Bruno, California, was caused by a rupture to an underground natural gas transmission pipeline. Unfortunately, there was significant damage to people, property, and the environment.

Following an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), one of the recommendations to PHMSA was to require that all operators of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines equip their SCADA systems with tools to assist in recognizing and pinpointing the location of leaks, including line breaks. While this has long been required for liquid pipelines, PHMSA is now evaluating how to apply this requirement to gas pipelines.

The NTSB recommendation noted that such tools could include a real-time leak detection system and appropriately spaced flow and pressure transmitters along covered transmission lines.

Nearly a decade since the San Bruno incident, NTSB reminded pipeline operators of the importance of using real-time data to support leak detection.

In the 2019-2020 “Most Wanted List,” the NTSB included open recommendation P-11-010 that calls for PHMSA to continue driving toward final guidelines to support the use of real-time data in leak detection.

The Facts on This NTSB “Most Wanted List” Item

Safety Recommendation P-11-010 from the NTSB to PHMSA officially requires: “All operators of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines equip their supervisory control and data acquisition systems with tools to assist in recognizing and pinpointing the location of leaks, including line breaks; such tools could include a real-time leak detection system and appropriately spaced flow and pressure transmitters along covered transmission lines.”

The recommendation was originally issued in 2011 following the San Bruno incident. What followed over the past several years were a series of exchanges between the NTSB and PHMSA, plus information gathered from industry to help draft a proposed rule.

In present time, PHMSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Pipeline Safety: Amendments to Parts 192 and 195 to Require Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards.” The NPRM is currently in review.

Why is P-11-010 Important for Pipeline Operators?

One of the most important reasons why this safety recommendation is important for pipeline operators is because operators need to ensure they have the optimal SCADA system to support the specific size, scope, and needs of the operation.

The main concern should be the reliability and compliance of the SCADA system. Operators cannot cover for an unreliable, outdated, or non-compliant SCADA system.

– To answer the question of whether the SCADA system is reliable, focus on the core essence of SCADA. Do you have the ability to perform supervisory control functions over each area of your operation and can you acquire data that is meaningful and actionable for decision-makers in the control room?

– To answer the question of compliance, take steps to ensure compliance with the current edition of API 1165 for HMI displays. At minimum, operators should have an updated HMI Philosophy, Style Guide, and Design Guide.

Additional Considerations to Prepare for the Proposed Rule

Validating the SCADA system is the first step to achieve alignment with the anticipated new rule. Consider these other key elements within pipeline operations:

  • Ensure the SCADA system has functionality to support leak detection.
  • Incorporate leak detection into your Alarm Management program.
  • Use real-time data to support leak detection.
  • Validate the data in your SCADA system (eliminate bad actors).
  • Ensure that controllers are trained on how to view and respond to the data presented to them. (Plan-Do-Check-Act)
  • Utilize your leak alarm response to prepare for emergency response in order to mitigate risk.

Alarm Management, SCADA, and leak alarm response all tie together. In today’s pipeline world, pipeliners need to advance past rationalizing alarms to supporting a complete alarm management program.

Furthermore, operators need to optimize their alarm management program, integrate leak alarm response into the program, and utilize the proper SCADA system to ensure that controllers can achieve situational awareness to support alarm response and emergency response.

EnerSys Offers Advanced Software to Support SCADA for Alarm Management and Leak Detection

At the 2019 API Control Room Forum, I presented a new whitepaper, “Optimizing Emergency Response Through Alarm Management.” The whitepaper presentation included a discussion of the alarm management lifecycle, as outlined by API 1167 and ISA 18.02. The Strategy (or Philosophy) feeds into the Alarm Design and Implementation, which feeds into Alarm Operation, Maintenance, and Assessment.

The SCADA system ensures proper support of the Alarm Management program by collecting real-time data from locations that have triggered an alarm. The data is then used by controllers to See (situational awareness), Respond (alarm response), and Mitigate (emergency response).

To support this multi-functional process, EnerSys developed the POEMS IOC (Intelligence Operator Console) software solution for pipeline and midstream operations.

The process of implementing the IOC complies with the best practices of API 1165 by providing an HMI philosophy, style guide, and design guide.

  • HMI Philosophy: policies for high-performance HMI style and design.
  • HMI Style Guide: defines graphical elements, system behaviors, and animations.
  • HMI Design Guide: defines SCADA architecture, security measures, network topology, and information dataflow.

Our team would like to discuss the POEMS IOC solution with your operation. We hosted in-person meetings and demos at the API conference in conjunction with the whitepaper presentation. To schedule a follow-up meeting or educational demo, please complete this form to note your interest.

Alternatively, if you would like to discuss POEMS IOC with our team independent of the API conference, please contact us through one of three options. Complete our Contact form, email us directly at sales@enersyscorp.com, or call us at 281-598-7100 to talk to a member of our team.

Russel Treat

Russel Treat is an industry leader, software entrepreneur, podcaster, and trusted subject matter expert specializing in oil and gas pipeline operations, custody transfer measurement, leak detection, and automation. Russel’s extensive knowledge of pipeline and control room operations gained over 30 years of projects led to the creation of a complete software suite known as POEMS ™ (Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System) delivered through EnerSys Corporation.

As CEO of EnerSys, Russel is committed to delivering the highest value to pipeline operators by addressing their greatest needs and concerns, especially operational efficiency, safety and government regulation.