OPS recently issued the following advisory bulletin concerning unauthorized excavations and installation of monitoring equipment on pipelines:
Advisory Bulletin (ADB-04-03)
To: Owners and operators of gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines.
Subject: Potential for unauthorized excavations and the installation of acoustic monitoring devices or other data acquisition devices on pipeline facilities.
Purpose: To ensure that pipeline owners and operators are aware of and take actions to prevent or mitigate the dangers associated with unauthorized excavations and the attendant installation of devices by entities seeking to exploit the pipelines for other purposes, and to remind operators and the public of the need to ensure that underground pipeline facilities are adequately located and protected from inadvertent damage prior to excavations.
Advisory: RSPA/OPS urges all owners and operators of gas and hazardous liquid pipelines to vigilantly monitor their right-of-ways for unauthorized excavation and the installation of data acquisition devices by third parties seeking to extract product movement information from the pipelines. This activity can impact pipeline integrity either through damage to the pipeline caused by the excavation activities or damage to the pipe coating caused by the attachment of the devices to the pipeline. The installation of pipeline monitoring devices should only be performed with the express knowledge, consent, and support of the pipeline operators.
Damage to underground facilities caused by unauthorized excavation can occur without any immediate indication to the operator. Sometimes a damaged underground pipeline facility will not fail for years after the completion of excavation activities. Excavation equipment does not need to fully rupture a pipeline facility to create a hazardous situation. Damage to coatings and other corrosion prevention systems can increase the risk of a delayed ‡corrosion failure. Escaping and migrating gas can create a safety issue for people living and working near these facilities long after the completion of excavation activities. Leakage from a damaged or ruptured hazardous liquid pipeline can create environmental and safety issues. The primary safety concern is to ensure that excavation operations do not accidentally contact existing underground pipeline facilities. This can be averted by knowing the precise locations of all underground pipeline facilities in proximity to excavation operations and closely monitoring excavation activities.