Key Takeaways

  • Pipelines may be decommissioned when it is no longer economically feasible to operate.
  • Before decommissioning, operators drain any remaining product from the line and cap it to prevent leaks and maintain safety.

What is decommissioning?

Decommissioning is the process of taking a pipeline and its component parts out of service. A pipeline may be decommissioned when its operation is no longer economically feasible. For example, a pipeline may reach a point when maintenance costs exceed the value the pipeline generates in operation. Industry practice is to leave a mainline pipe in the pipeline trench to prevent environmental disturbances that could result from removing the pipe and other underground components.

pipeline right of way

After decommissioning, operators often leave the pipe buried to avoid environmental disturbances.

Operators take several steps to maintain pipeline’s safety when decommissioning:

  • Removing cathodic protection from the pipeline
  • Disconnecting the pipeline from operating facilities
  • Removing the product from the line
  • Flushing the line with fresh water, air, or inert gas
  • Capping the pipe by welding steel caps on to open ends.