Just like commercial airlines don’t make headlines for the thousands of flights that reach their destination safely each day, you won’t see much media coverage of the stellar safety rate achieved in all segments of North America’s oil and natural gas industry. But it’s a reality with direct bearing on public policy.
The continents liquid pipeline system transports more than 14 billion barrels of crude oil and petroleum products per year at a safety rate of 99.999 percent.
Oil shipped to the United States from elsewhere arrived without incident at that same rate over the last decade.
North America’s rail network moves 99.998 percent of hazardous materials — including crude oil — without incident. Refinery employees are up to five times less likely to be injured on the job than employees in other manufacturing sectors.
We did not achieve this record by chance. Since even one accident is too many, we work continuously with our partner industries and regulators to eliminate the last .001-.002 percent of risk from our operations using a comprehensive approach focused on prevention, mitigation and response.
The more than 200,000 miles (322,000 kms) of liquid pipeline are subject to rigorous standards of continual improvement.
The petroleum industry launched a new Pipeline Safety Excellence initiative in 2014 to better track and improve safety performance. The data show pipeline releases in public areas dropped by 57 percent between 2001 and 2013 — with two-thirds of incidents occurring inside operator facilities with limited access to the public — and operators continue to step up inspection spending and the deployment of advanced technology to detect threats to pipeline integrity.
Multiple stakeholders are committed to achieving a 100 percent safety rate for crude-by-rail, and a comprehensive approach is key.
Accident mitigation and response are also important. In 2011, the oil and natural gas industry helped lead a multi-industry effort to voluntarily improve the design of rail tank cars, but we didn’t stop there.
The American Petroleum Institute, for instance, proposed even stronger standards to DOT last year, which we hope to see included in new regulations expected in May. We also developed a new industry standard for sampling, testing and classifying crude and are working with the railroads to better educate first responders.
The same comprehensive approach has succeeded in improving safety in offshore drilling. Over the last five years, industry experts and regulators have worked together to examine every aspect of offshore safety.
Our potential as a global energy leader is rooted in our ability to safely develop and transport our game-changing energy resources safely 100 percent of the time. A comprehensive, science-based approach is the best way to get there.
Comment by: Jack Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.
(Source: Duluth Times)