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NTSB unveils its 2021 – 2022 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements

Published by , Senior Editor
World Pipelines,

The National Transportation Safety Board finalised its 2021 – 2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements during a board meeting held on Tuesday.

The five-member board voted to include 10 items in the 2021 - 2022 Most Wanted List (MWL) of Transportation Safety Improvements, which included:

  • Improve Pipeline Leak Detection and Mitigation.

Since 1990 the NTSB has used its MWL as the principal advocacy tool to build support for the implementation of NTSB-issued safety recommendations associated with the list.

“Board members of the NTSB and our advocacy team continuously seek opportunities to communicate about items on our MWL,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “As we begin advocacy efforts for the 2021 – 2022 MWL, we call upon our advocacy partners to amplify our safety messages and help us bring about the safety improvements that will make transportation safer for us all.

The 2021 – 2022 MWL draws attention to more than 100 safety recommendations associated with the 10 items on the list. These recommendations, if implemented, can save lives, reduce the number and severity of injuries and prevent transportation accidents and crashes. The 2021 - 2022 MWL features 10 mode-specific safety improvements, unlike previous lists that featured 10 broad, multi-modal safety issues tied to hundreds of recommendations.

On the pipeline leak detection and mitigation topic, NTSB writes:

All pipelines leak. Leak-detection and mitigation tools are essential and can make the difference between a minor incident and a deadly explosion. Pipeline systems equipped with leak-detection systems and automatic shutoff valves, or remote-control valves, can warn operators of an imminent accident and allow for quick mitigation.

The NTSB first identified the need for leak detection and mitigation methods in natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines nearly 50 years ago, but the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has yet to require operators to use these life-saving measures, and many operators won’t act without regulation.

Placing service regulators outside buildings is another mitigation tool. Yet many older homes and multifamily structures still have regulators inside, which can trap accumulating gas and lead to an explosion. Methane detection also helps mitigate consequences by alerting the public to natural gas leaks, thereby minimising public exposure.

Every day we wait to enhance our mitigation systems is a day we put the public in danger.

The threat to public safety merits a comprehensive ‘fast-track”’ regulatory approach by PHMSA, and industry should implement leak-detection and mitigation measures in advance of regulation to help shape regulatory action.

Regulators should:

  • Require all operators of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines to equip their supervisory control and data acquisition systems with tools to assist in recognising and pinpointing the location of leaks.
  • Require the installation of automatic shutoff valves or remote-control valves in high-consequence areas and in class 3 and 4 locations.
  • Require all new service regulators be installed outside occupied structures and existing interior service regulators be relocated whenever the gas service line, meter, or regulator is replaced. Multifamily structures should be prioritised over single-family dwellings.
  • Require methane-detection systems in residential occupancies with gas service.
Industry groups should:
  • Revise the National Fuel Gas Code, National Fire Protection Association 54 to require methane-detection systems for all types of residential occupancies with gas service.
  • Develop additional guidance that identifies steps gas distribution operators can take to safely respond to leaks, fires, explosions, and emergency calls.

Operators should:

  • Review and update as needed:
  1. Incident-reporting practices.
  2. Policies and procedures for responding to leaks, fires, explosions, and emergency calls.
  3. Integrity management programmes.
  • Equip supervisory control and data-acquisition systems with tools to assist in leak detection.
  • Install remote-closure and automatic-shutoff valves in high-consequence areas and class 3 and 4 locations.

See NTSB’s specific detailed recommendations, coming soon here


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