NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


January 23, 1996

(Washington, DC) -- In a special investigation of U.S. liquid pipelines, the National Transportation Safety Board has found that the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) still lacks an adequate system to address corrosion control, inspection and testing of pipelines, methods to limit the release of product from failed pipelines and analyze operator performance.

Pipelines transport about 57 percent of the crude petroleum and petroleum products moved within the United States. The potential threat to public safety from such releases has become more severe in recent years, as the rate of residential and commercial development adjacent to all types of pipelines has increased. Further, there has been growing Congressional, State, and local concern about the environmental consequences of releases from pipeline systems, particularly those transporting crude petroleum and petroleum products, which potentially pose the greatest risk to the environment.

The Safety Board conducted a special investigation to review RSPA's efforts to implement previous Safety Board safety recommendations that apply to petroleum product pipelines. In particular, the Safety Board reviewed those recommendations that address the prevention of excavation damage, the control of corrosion damage, the inspection and testing of pipelines, and methods to more rapidly detect, locate, and shut down failed sections of pipeline. The Safety Board analyzed petroleum product pipeline accident data compiled by RSPA to assess accident trends and causes.

The Safety Board also evaluated RSPA procedures for collecting and analyzing accident data to identify safety problems and evaluate the safety performance of individual pipeline companies.

The investigation revealed that:

-- Although RSPA's data on hazardous liquid pipeline accidents can be analyzed to determine some general trends and conclusions, the data on hazardous liquid pipelines, as they are currently collected and reported,are not sufficient for RSPA to perform an effective accident trend analysis or to properly evaluate operator performance.

-- Although RSPA has taken positive regulatory action and undertaken other initiatives to minimize excavation damage, RSPA has failed to take effective and timely action to address corrosion control, inspection and testing of pipelines, and methods to limit the release of product from failed pipelines.

-- RSPA's failure to fully implement the Safety Board's original 1978 safety recommendations to evaluate and analyze its accident data reporting needs has hampered RSPA's oversight of pipeline safety.

-- With the deficiencies of the current accident data base for hazardous liquid pipelines, RSPA will find it exceedingly difficult to fully implement an effective risk management program.

As a result of this special investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendation to the Research and Special Programs Administration:

-- Develop within one year, and implement within two years, a comprehensive plan for the collection and use of gas and hazardous liquid pipeline accident data that details the type and extent of data to be collected, to provide the Research and Special Programs Administration with the capability to perform methodologically sound accident trend analyses and evaluations of pipeline operator performance using normalized accident data.

Also, as a result of this special investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board reiterates the following safety recommendations to the Research and Special Programs Administration:

-- Require operators of both gas and liquid transmission pipelines to periodically determine the adequacy of their pipelines to operate at established maximum allowable operating pressures by performing inspections or tests capable of identifying corrosion-caused and other time-dependent damages that may be detrimental to the continued safe operation of these pipelines and require necessary remedial action. (87-4)

-- Establish criteria for use by operators of pipelines in determining the frequency for performing inspections and tests conducted to determine the appropriateness of established maximum allowable operating pressures. (87-5)

-- Expedite requirements for installing automatic- or remote-operated mainline valves on high pressure pipelines in urban and environmentally sensitive areas to provide for rapid shutdown of failed pipeline segments. (95-1)

The Safety Board's complete printed report, PB96-917002, will be available from the National Technical Information Service, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161. The number is (703) 487-4650.

Media Contact: NTSB Office of Public Affairs
(202) 314-6100



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.