Hurricanes can adversely affect the operation of a pipeline and require corrective action under §192.613 and 195.401. Hurricanes also increase the risk of underwater pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico and its inlets becoming exposed or constituting a hazard to navigation under §192.612 and 195.413. The Gulf of Mexico is now in hurricane season, and PHMSA recently published ADB-2015-02 to remind all owners and operators of gas and hazardous liquid pipelines that pipeline safety problems can occur from the passage of hurricanes. Pipeline operators are urged to take the following actions to ensure pipeline safety:
- Identify persons who normally engage in shallow-water commercial fishing, shrimping, and other marine vessel operations and caution them that underwater offshore pipelines may be exposed or constitute a hazard to navigation. Marine vessels operating in water depths comparable to a vessel’s draft or when operating bottom dragging equipment can be damaged and their crews endangered by an encounter with an underwater pipeline.
- Identify and caution marine vessel operators in offshore shipping lanes and other offshore areas that deploying fishing nets or anchors and conducting dredging operations may damage underwater pipelines, their vessels, and endanger their crews.
- After a disruption, operators need to bring offshore and inland transmission facilities back online, check for structural damage to piping, valves, emergency shutdown systems, risers and supporting systems. Aerial inspections of pipeline routes should be conducted to check for leaks in the transmission systems. In areas where floating and jack-up rigs have moved and their path could have been over the pipelines, review possible routes and check for sub-sea pipeline damage where required.
- Operators should take action to minimize and mitigate damages caused by flooding to gas distribution systems, including the prevention of overpressure of low pressure and high pressure distribution systems.
PHMSA would appreciate receiving information about any damage to pipeline facilities caused by hurricanes. The Federal pipeline safety regulations require that operators report certain incidents and accidents to PHMSA by specific methods. Damage not reported by these methods may be reported to David Lehman, Director for Emergency Support and Security, 202-366-4439 or by email at PHMSA.OPA90@dot.gov.