Environmental Safeguards

Key Takeaways

  • Pipeline operators maintain robust inspection and maintenance programs to safeguard the environment.
  • Highly-trained and regularly trained personnel monitor pipelines from control rooms 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Pipelines are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to transport natural gas and oil products.

How do pipelines help keep the environment safe?

The pipeline industry’s highest priority is the safety of people and the environment in the continuous pursuit of operating with zero incidents. More than 2.8 million miles of pipelines run throughout the U.S., mostly unseen, bringing energy to homes, businesses, and utilities. Pipelines travel safely through neighborhoods, farmland, forests, and deserts. Energy products traveling through pipelines reach their destination without incident 99.999% of the time.

As part of the planning process, a major pipeline project must include a detailed study of its environmental impacts. The potential impact of a pipeline on natural resources, wildlife, habitat and cultural resources are all considered. Pipeline operators are increasingly taking steps to protect the natural environment by emphasizing proven approaches to land management. The industry has formed a broader program to create standard efforts for establishing conservation plans while driving deep, positive long-term impact across the communities in which in operates.

Experts from industry, government and academia have partnered to create a series of standards and recommended practices to provide guidance to companies as they construct pipelines. Pipelines are inspected throughout construction by federal and state officials. Pipeline companies regularly go above and beyond regulations through environmental protection and design and construction best practices. Any land temporarily disturbed during pipeline construction is restored following pipeline completion.

Once placed in operation, highly trained personnel monitor pipelines from control rooms 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Robust inspection and maintenance programs also help safeguard the environment.

How do pipeline operators protect the water?

Advanced materials, expert engineering, and continuous monitoring and inspections help keep water safe. Before pipelines carry any product, they are rigorously tested at high pressure to demonstrate there are no leaks in the pipe or its weld joints.

Pipelines are constructed with highly durable materials, including steel and advanced composites. In addition, operators use special coatings that resist corrosion and protect the pipeline’s integrity.

Advanced engineering and construction practices like horizontal directional drilling (HDD) can burrow the pipeline 100 feet or more beneath the bottom of a waterbody, so that the pipeline does not get close to or come into contact with the water itself.

Control rooms for each pipeline are staffed with highly trained personnel who monitor the pipeline 24/7/365 and can stop the flow if there is an issue or take action to respond in case of emergency.

Pipeline control room

Operators monitor pipelines 24/7 from a centralized control room

How do pipeline help to reduce air emissions?

Pipelines are one of the most environmentally friendly ways to transport energy. Pipelines help lower carbon emissions by reducing the need to transport fuel over long distances by truck or train, which both have higher levels of carbon emissions.

The increased availability and use of natural gas, made possible by new pipelines and expanded energy infrastructure, has already helped to lower U.S. carbon emissions from electricity production. According to the Department of Energy, our nation’s carbon emissions are among the lowest in a generation thanks to the increased use of natural gas.

Pipelines also transport carbon dioxide and hydrogen, both of which are critical components for helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Low carbon energy infrastructure transports carbon dioxide from carbon capture facilities, for utilization or storage (CCUS) and for enhanced oil recovery to produce more energy while sequestering carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide, transported by pipelines, can be stored underground. Hydrogen is also transported by pipeline for underground storage and provides a source of low carbon energy supply to fuel the country.

Can land with buried pipelines be used for farming?

Crop production and raising livestock can safely resume on land with underground pipelines after a pipeline is constructed. When a pipeline is installed, farmers are compensated for the use of their land and paid for losses resulting from any disruption to crop production or grazing.

Natural gas, oil, carbon dioxide, hydrogen are essential to modern agriculture. Natural gas is used for fuel and grain-drying; oil and hydrogen can fuel tractors and equipment. Natural gas and oil are also essential building blocks for manufacturing fertilizer.

How do pipeline operators protect the environment during a natural disaster?

Pipelines have a strong track record of safety and have not experienced widespread leaks as a result of natural disasters. For instance, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline did not spill any oil as a result of a major 7.9-magnitude earthquake in 2002. Computer-aided pipeline monitoring can rapidly detect issues so that operators can quickly shut down pumps and close valves to isolate segments if necessary during a natural disaster.