Pipeline operators have a duty to their employees, their communities and the environment to keep their operations as safe as possible. This means regularly monitoring and inspecting high consequence areas (HCAs) to minimize the risk of leaks or other dangers. Pipeline operators take this responsibility extremely seriously, striving to follow every health, safety and environmental regulation to the letter.
However, insufficient data and outdated processes can hinder this commitment to safety and sustainability. By investing in advanced classification and monitoring tools, pipeline operators can effectively overcome these challenges and fulfill their duties.
The Challenge of Classifying & Monitoring HCA
HCAs are defined as areas where pipelines have a high potential to impact the health or safety of large numbers of people. Typically, operators designate HCAs by estimating how widespread the potential impact would be if the pipeline integrity were to fail, defining a radius of the affected area. If that radius contains at least 20 buildings that are intended for human use, the area is a HCA.
Pipeline operators are required by law to designate all HCAs and monitor the pipelines they have there. This increases their chance of identifying early warning signs of pipeline damage and responding before there is an incident. However, such proactive monitoring is easier said than done due to:
New Developments - As our understanding of the full range of health and safety threats expands pipeline regulations change to meet a higher level of managing increased risk. This will often lead to new areas classified as HCAs. Even when regulations stay the same, a section of a pipeline may become a HCA if the population increases in the surrounding area. Pipeline operators often have trouble keeping track of all new developments that affect the safety of their pipelines, making it difficult for them to update their classifications and monitoring equipment.
Outdated Measurements - Many pipeline operators still rely on traditional methods of assessing likely issues and measuring impact radii. These methods are highly time consuming, making it difficult to perform them throughout the pipeline network on a regular basis, and are also subject to inaccuracies. As a result, at-risk areas may not be properly designated as HCAs.
Formatting Issues - Monitoring systems often gather a wide range of diverse types of data, which are organized into different formats. This makes it difficult to analyze data in a timely and accurate fashion, limiting an operator’s ability to both classify HCAs and respond to possible issues.
Slow Responses - Due to outdated monitoring methods, operators may have trouble realizing a pipeline’s potential issues ahead of time. This slows down their response time and hinders their ability to maintain protection of the surrounding community and environment.
Quality Control & Verification Issues - After responding to the hazards or latent issues, pipeline operators must ensure that they have fully resolved the issue, lest it happen again. However, if they rely on outdated quality control and verification methods, they won’t be able to properly develop root cause analysis of the accident or make sure that they have completely addressed it.
Many of these pipeline issues are exacerbated by the sheer size of the networks that operators are tasked with monitoring. With thousands of miles of pipeline spanning over large sections of the country, it is difficult for operators to reassess HCAs and update their monitoring tools in a timely fashion. If operators rely on human beings to perform risk assessments and update their HCA designations, they will have to deal with slow responses, inaccurate classifications and other monitoring issues.
To address these monitoring hitches and free pipeline operators from the limits of human errors, G2 Integrated Solutions has developed the Gas HCA tool. With updated structure and site locations, G2-IS’ automated risk management tool regularly assesses the population density around each section of a pipeline. It can also be programmed with configuration settings that are specific to each pipeline, allowing operators to account for the changing health, safety and environmental risks they face. As a result, the system provides precise classifications and monitoring for HCAs, even as the location and nature of HCAs change over time.
Besides accurate classification and monitoring, the Gas HCA tool gathers clear and detailed data, which it organizes into its own database for quick, convenient viewing. By gathering as many diverse types of data as possible, it allows for time-based comparisons of virtually any pipeline safety feature. For more information on using this tool for your pipelines, contact G2 Integrated Solutions today.