With the booming natural gas industry in North America over the past several years as a result of shale drilling, it seemed high time that North American Oil & Gas Pipelines feature the trade association dedicated to the natural gas pipeline industry in the United States and Canada.
Members of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) operate approximately 200,000 miles of pipelines. The association represents operators in advocacy initiatives with regulators and legislators, and the group has more recently been focused on fostering a safety culture within the industry.
April turns out to be a good time to spotlight INGAA and its safety efforts. An underground pipeline or utility line is damaged by a digging project once every three minutes in the United States, according to a recent press release from the association. INGAA has partnered with the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) to recognize April as National Safe Digging Month. Whether a cross-country pipeline or installing a mailbox, project planners are encouraged to always dial 811 before embarking on a digging project.
“The goal is for 8-1-1 to be as familiar to Americans as 9-1-1,” said INGAA president and CEO Don Santa. “Millions of Americans live or work near or on top of underground pipelines or other utilities. We can all do our part in making sure everyone is safe by calling before we dig.”
The toll-free 811 number works in every state. The call center will help identify the location of underground utilities on a property and send a professional to mark the location of gas lines, communication cables, electric lines and other underground infrastructure so that those digging can avoid buried assets.
Each year, failure to locate underground utilities results in more than 250,000 unintentional hits across the United States. Striking a pipeline or utility line can cause injury and death, as well as result in repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages. Calling 811 can help avoid this, no matter how deep or shallow the digging project is.
The call-before-you-dig campaign is just one small part of INGAA’s overall message of pipeline safety. As Santa told assistant editor Mike Kezdi, safety is “job No. 1” for the association’s members. Ever since the 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., INGAA has taken a stronger stance on safety.
“We said we’ve really got to take ownership of this issue and the INGAA board committed to a goal of zero pipeline accidents,” Santa said. Such adherence to adopting a safety culture has become paramount as every pipeline project becomes a lightning rod for activists to rail against. Committing to zero incidents, while extreme, helps bolster the industry’s response to criticism.
This April, let us not just remember to be safe when digging, but to be safe in all aspects of building and operating pipelines and their associated facilities.