U.S. Liquids Pipeline Safety Improving, Trade Groups Say

The safety of U.S. liquids pipelines has improved on several key metrics over the past five years, according to a new joint report from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL).

“Pipelines are not only the best way to deliver large volumes of liquid energy; they’re also the safest,” Phillips 66 Pipeline LLC President Todd Denton said in API and AOPL’s 2021 Annual Pipeline Safety Performance Excellence Report. “Pipelines deliver liquid power with fewer incidents and lower volumes released than other transportation alternatives.”

Citing 2017-2021 data tracked and maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, API and AOPL reported a 31% drop in liquid pipeline incidents that impact people or environment and a 17% decrease in the total number of pipeline incidents.

A 2019 study observed a 36% drop in liquid pipeline incidents.

The drop in incidents noted in the most recent study occurred “even though pipeline mileage and barrels per day” increased by nearly 10%, API and AOPL said.

One U.S. midstream company planning to add a liquids pipeline and other infrastructure is Enterprise Products Partners LP, whose CEO this week told analysts about $4.6 billion worth of potential growth projects.

“The government’s own data shows that liquids pipelines are getting safer,” said Andy Black, president of AOPL.

The API-AOPL report also found a 32% decrease in pipeline incidents affecting people or the environment over the five-year period caused by corrosion, cracking or weld failure. Additionally, it found that operations and maintenance incidents impacting people and the environment dropped by 34% during the period.

“Through industry initiatives and best practices, pipeline operators are working every day to enhance safety and reduce incidents while providing Americans with the fuels they need,” said Robin Rorick, vice president of the Midstream Policy API.

Of the 229,454 miles of liquids pipelines criss-crossing the United States at the end of 2020, 37% carried crude oil, 33% carried natural gas liquids and 28% shipped refined products, API and AOPL said.

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