Ensuring safe & reliable pipelines
How do you know where a pipeline is located? Do you know how to recognize a pipeline leak? What should you do if you find a leak or witness pipeline damage? How dangerous are gas pipelines, anyway, and is it really important to call before you dig? You’ll find answers to all these questions here, so take a moment to become more educated about gas pipelines.
Southern Star monitors the operation of our pipeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We ensure the safe and reliable operations of our pipelines through routine inspections, computer monitoring systems, corrosion protection, maintenance, regular employee training and more. Our pipelines are designed, tested, installed, operated and maintained in accordance with all applicable federal and state requirements.
Call Before You Dig!
Most pipeline accidents occur when individuals are not aware of a pipeline’s location before they begin their work. The best way to solve this is to call before you dig! No matter if you are a homeowner or a professional excavator, one easy phone call to 811 starts the process to get underground pipelines and utility lines marked for FREE. You should call 811 if you are planning any sort of digging project, whether you’re planting shrubs in your yard or beginning work near a major gas pipeline right-of-way. When you call 811 from anywhere in the country, your call will be routed to your state’s One-Call Center. Within two business days, the underground pipelines and utility lines around your home, business or property will be marked and you will be able to dig safely. If you prefer to go online to report your digging plan, visit call811.com
Most pipelines are buried underground to protect them from the elements and minimize interference with surface uses. Pipeline rights-of-way are clearly identified by pipeline markers that identify the approximate — NOT EXACT — location of the pipeline. Every pipeline marker contains information identifying the company that operates the pipeline, the product transported, and a phone number that should be called in the event of an emergency.
Markers do not indicate pipeline burial depth, which will vary. Markers are typically seen where a pipeline intersects a street, highway or railway. You will also find them at water crossings, fence lines and property boundaries. For any person to willfully deface, damage, remove, or destroy any pipeline marker is a federal crime.
This marker is the most common. It contains operator information, type of product and an emergency contact number. Size, shape and color may vary.
These skyward facing markers are used by patrol planes that monitor pipeline routes.
Casing Vent Marker
This marker indicates that a pipeline (protected by a steel outer casing) passes beneath a nearby roadway, rail line or other crossing.
Natural gas is colorless, but vapor and “ground frosting” may be visible at high pressures. A natural gas leak may also be indicated by bubbles in wet or flooded areas, distinct patches of dead vegetation, dust blowing from a hole in the ground or flames if the leak is ignited.
Volume can range from a quiet hissing to a loud roar depending on the size of the leak and pipeline system.
An unusual smell or gaseous odor will sometimes accompany pipeline leaks. Natural Gas is colorless, tasteless and odorless unless commercial odorants or Mercaptan are added. Gas transmission/gas gathering pipelines are odorless, but may contain a hydrocarbon smell.
- Turn off any equipment and eliminate any ignition sources without risking injury.
- Leave the area by foot immediately. Try to direct any other bystanders to leave the area. Attempt to stay upwind.
- From a safe location, notify the pipeline operator immediately and call 911 or your local emergency response number. The operator will need your name, your phone number, a brief description of the incident, and the location so they can initiate the proper response.
- DO NOT cause any open flame or other potential source of ignition such as an electrical switch, vehicle ignition, burning match, etc. Do not start motor vehicles or electrical equipment. Do not ring doorbells to notify others of the leak. Knock with your hand to avoid potential sparks from knockers.
- DO NOT come into direct contact with any escaping liquids or gas.
- DO NOT drive into a leak or vapor cloud while leaving the area.
- DO NOT attempt to operate any pipeline valves yourself. You may inadvertently route more product to the leak or cause a secondary incident.
- DO NOT attempt to extinguish a petroleum product or natural gas fire. Wait for local firemen and other professionals trained to deal with such emergencies.
If you cause or witness even minor damage to a pipeline or its protective coating, please immediately notify the pipeline company. Even a small disturbance to a pipeline may cause a future leak. A gouge, scrape, dent or crease is cause enough for the company to inspect the damage and make repairs.
All damages to underground gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities in the State of Texas are required by law to be reported to the Railroad Commission of Texas online at www.rrc.state.tx.us. Excavators must notify the pipeline company through the One-Call Center immediately but not later than two hours following the damage incident.
With the passage of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 (PSIA), the United States Congress mandated that specific requirements be implemented for ensuring the integrity of liquid and natural gas pipeline systems throughout the United States. This legislation, and subsequent regulations codified by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), require pipeline operators to develop programs to improve how they manage the integrity of their pipeline systems.
Southern Star has developed its Integrity Management Program (IMP) to more effectively perform safety-related activities such as testing and inspections, repairs, and maintenance of the pipeline system. Furthermore, our program is critical in determining the prioritization and timeline of pipeline integrity work while also standardizing the manner in which Southern Star continually monitors and documents the work associated with the integrity of the pipeline, specifically within High Consequence Areas (HCAs).
An HCA is a location that is defined by pipeline safety regulations as an area where pipeline releases could have greater consequences to health and safety or the environment. HCAs are generated when the Potential Impact Circle (PIC) of the pipeline encompasses 20 or more buildings intended for human occupancy or an identified site.
The PIC is the circle within which the potential failure of a pipeline could have significant impact on people or property.
An identified site is one of the following:
- An outside area or open structure that is occupied by 20 or more persons on at least 50 days in any 12-month period. The days need not be consecutive. Examples include but are not limited to, beaches, playgrounds, recreational facilities, camping grounds, outdoor theaters, stadiums, recreational areas near bodies of water; or
- Religious facilities, office buildings, community centers, general stores, or other buildings of this nature, that are occupied by 20 or more people on at least five (5) days a week for 10 weeks in a 12-month period (the days and weeks need not be consecutive); or
- Schools, day-care facilities, retirement facilities, prisons, assisted-living facilities, hospitals, or other facilities occupied by persons who are confined, are of impaired mobility, or who would be difficult to evacuate.
Southern Star’s IMP (Integrity Management Program) includes the following elements:
- Identification of High Consequence Areas
- Baseline Assessment Plan & Performing Integrity Assessment
- Remediating Conditions
- Continual Evaluation and Assessment
- Preventive & Mitigative Measures
- Performance Plan
- Management of Change
- Quality Assurance
- Internal & External Communications
Southern Star is committed to continuing to operate safe and reliable pipelines. Senior Management fully supports the processes and procedures contained in our IMP and has directed employees to meet the goals and objectives of the program.
Southern Star has an established emergency response plan in the rare case that a pipeline failure should occur. Hazards that may be associated with pipeline failure include line rupture, release of natural gas, fire, and explosion.
Our operations personnel are prepared to respond appropriately and manage an emergency should one ensue. We work closely and cooperate with local emergency responders to provide education about our pipeline operations and how to respond in the unlikely event of an emergency.
In the case that a pipeline emergency should arise, Southern Star personnel will respond immediately with at least the following actions:
- Locate the emergency site and stop or reduce the flow of natural gas to the area
- Cooperate and work with emergency first responders and the appropriate public officials
- Repair the facility and restore service as soon as possible
- Investigate the cause of the incident to prevent similar events from recurring
If you are a member of one of the audiences below, please take a minute to review the information in your relevant pipeline safety brochures and HCA (High Consequence Area) brochures: