The Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) has issued an advisory to owners and operators of gas distribution, gas transmission, and hazardous liquid pipeline systems, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. Owners and operators should ensure that telephonic reports of incidents to the National Response Center (NRC) are both prompt and accurate and fully communicate the estimated extent of the damages. Additional reports should be made if there is a significant change in an estimate of the size of the gas or liquid release, the extent of the damage, or the number of deaths or injuries.
OPS considers a significant change to include any of the following:
- An increase or decrease in the number of previously reported injuries or fatalities;
- A revised estimate of the product release amount that is at least 10 times greater than the amount reported; for example, the initial reported amount of product released was 300 barrels and the revised estimated amount is 3,000 barrels;
- A revised estimate of the property damage that is at least 10 times greater than the reported property damage estimate; for example, the initial reported amount of damage was 100,000 dollars and the revised estimate is 1,000,000 dollars.
Some hazardous liquid operators do not provide an estimated product release amount when reporting an incident to the NRC. OPS recognizes the difficulty in estimating spill amounts, especially if the release is underground or into water. However, OPS’s and NTSB’s response to the incident may depend on the reported spill size. OPS and NTSB may not investigate a ten barrel spill and may perform an onsite investigation of a 20,000 barrel spill. To get this critical information, OPS is asking the NRC to request operators to provide an estimate of the spill amount. If an estimated amount is not provided, NRC assumes, for emergency notification and response purposes, that a major spill has occurred. Therefore, if the operator does not provide a spill estimate, NRC will enter a default spill estimate of 1,000 barrels. OPS will be notified of all spills over 500 barrels and any spill over 100 barrels that impacts water.
The complete advisory bulletin is available on RCP’s website here.
Editor’s note: Since the NRC spill database is a public record, pipeline operators would be well advised to ensure they provide a spill volume estimate to NRC every time they call. Otherwise, the public record will show a significant spill to have occured.