November 27 - December 3, 2016

Several high-profile pipeline breaches, including a gasoline spill and explosion in Alabama, gasoline leak in Pennsylvania, and crude oil release in Oklahoma, have dominated the headlines recently. Do these incidents indicate a growing problem with American pipelines?

Answers Votes
Yes. Pipeline owners aren't taking the proper care, and safety and the environment are at risk. 61%
No. There are more than 2 million miles of pipeline in the U.S.; there are bound to be failures, especially when weather catastrophes are involved, but by and large the system is remarkably safe. 34%
Other. (Please comment to explain.) 5%

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Tagged categories: North America; Pipeline

Comment from Larry Zacharias, (11/28/2016, 3:06 PM)

Many of the pipelines are aging and need increased inspection and maintenance. If owners don't upgrade maintenance and inspection practice as these lines age or takes the effort to protect the older lines from weather, these lines are more likely to fail.

Comment from Jeff Horvath, (11/29/2016, 7:50 AM)

I totally agree with Mr. Zacharias. It is similar to aging bridge and culvert infrastructure and requires a routine frequency inspection and the associated maintenance. It is the same with much of our buried infrastructure that goes unnoticed until a major deficiency occurs and it then becomes an emergency.

Comment from Car F., (11/29/2016, 11:24 AM)

Greed is the problem. Quality and timely maintenance, done by qualified trades people is expensive. Utility owners prefer to postpone maintenance as long as possible, then pay flight-by-night companies to perform sub standard maintenance, executed by unqualified and poorly supervised trades people...and politicians allow it: this is another example of a rigged system.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (11/30/2016, 11:35 AM)

Although I do agree there is definitely some greed involved, I think Larry has brought up the more critical point. Most of the pipeline infrastructure in Canada and the US is reaching the end of its designed service life. Most of the operators can't afford to replace it and are having harder and harder times keeping up with the ramping up maintenance costs, especially during more challenging economic times. Add to that some more extreme weather events contributing their own issues (i.e. washed out bridges hitting pipelines and buoyancy issues in areas that were never anticipated to have them) as well as the current political climate that makes even replacing an existing pipeline exceptionally difficult and you're left with an impossible position. A prime example is Enbridge's Line No. 3 (recent approved for replacement by the Canadian government). It was put in service in 1968...likely with a typical 50 year service life. In 2010, Enbridge reduced the pressure in the line by 1/2 and limited the products it could carry due to its age. The application for replacement went in in November 2014 and Canada approved it yesterday....the US process continues. If everything goes well (i.e. nothing like in North Dakota happens), they hope to have the new line up and running in late 2019...five years would be a pretty quick, but it is a replacement not a new line...still, there are already groups lining up to fight the Line 3 replacement. I hate the fly-by-night types, but I also have some sympathy for the rock-and-hard-place the legitimate operators are in...

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (12/1/2016, 10:55 AM)

My perception is that there are problems, but that they are not necessarily one that is growing. It seems that just about any day (one near KC today..), one can find an example of recent news of some type of leak, explosion, spill, fire, etc. I don't think the term 'political climate' is accurate in describing resistance or lengthy review processes for things like new (or replacement) pipelines. I think the issue is more complex, involving social, economic and other dimensions. No one wants anything near their home or community. Both Trump and T.Kennedy fought windfarms that they thought would spoil their views of the ocean. There are not just fears of disasters, but of lower real estate values. It's getting more and more difficult to build anything from a new pipeline to a bike trail.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (12/1/2016, 11:28 AM)

Andrew, I cannot say you are wrong that the NIMBY thing has gone wild... but I do believe there is an especially strong sentiment in this day and age against oil and gas. There are numerous pipelines being built for other products and multitudes of train or tanker truck spills around the world every day. You may see them in the media if it is in your local area. But if it is oil and gas related, it's front page news nationally or internationally and brings out protesters and politicians galore. Aside from the global warming / climate change folks pointing to all fossil fuels as "bad", I think far too many are trying to make political points on social media sentiment and oil and gas has become far more a political issue in general. Still, you are quite right that people have generally become more protective of "what's theirs" it a view, real estate values or a perceived threat of a disaster.

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