Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) in Liquid Pipelines

In the pipeline industry, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are used to collect data from pipeline sensors in real time and display these data to humans who monitor the data from remote sites and remotely operate pipeline control equipment. This National Transportation Safety Board study was designed to examine how pipeline companies use SCADA systems to monitor and record operating data and to evaluate the role of SCADA systems in leak detection. The number of hazardous liquid accidents investigated by the Safety Board in which leaks went undetected after indications of a leak on the SCADA interface was the impetus for this study. The Board developed a survey to obtain data about the liquid pipeline industry’s use of SCADA systems with input from industry. In addition to obtaining survey data, the Board visited 12 pipeline companies that had operating SCADA systems. Based on information from previous accidents investigated by the Board, survey results, and site visit results, the Board’s review of SCADA systems in the hazardous liquid pipeline industry uncovered five areas for potential improvement: display graphics, alarm management, controller training, controller fatigue, and leak detection systems. As a result of this study, the Safety Board issued five recommendations to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.