New Gas Transmission Pipeline Rules Expand Risk Management with Tight Timeline

New Gas Transmission Pipeline Rules Expand Risk Management with Tight Timeline

In the aftermath of a natural gas pipeline explosion on September 9, 2010 in San Bruno, California, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) identified several concerns with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA’s) oversight of performance-based safety programs, and recommended that the Secretary of Transportation conduct an audit to address these concerns.

Pipeline safety in the U.S. and many other parts of the world relies on the regulatory concept of Integrity Management. Integrity Management programs – required by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)– stipulate how and where pipeline operators must identify, prioritize, assess, evaluate, repair, and validate the integrity of their pipelines that could, in the event of a leak or failure, endanger human health.

san bruno explosion

The San Bruno pipeline explosion killed eight people at 6:11 pm PDT on September 9, 2010.

Until recently, Integrity Management programs primarily focused on managing risks to human health in High Consequence Areas (HCAs), generally defined as areas along a pipeline in which 20 or more buildings intended for human occupancy could be significantly impacted in the occurrence of a pipeline failure. In other words, the buildings fall within the pipeline’s potential impact radius (see Figure 1). While the potential consequences of a pipeline accident are deemed higher within HCAs, nearly half of all pipeline accident-induced injuries, property damages, and fatalities have occurred outside of HCAs since the promulgation of Integrity Management rules.

Signaling an industry-wide move toward more comprehensive risk management, PHMSA released new rules on October 1, 2019 that expand Integrity Management programs for gas transmission pipelines beyond HCAs to include Moderate Consequence Areas (MCAs). MCAs are defined as areas along a pipeline in which 5 or more buildings intended for human occupancy are located within the pipeline’s potential impact radius in the event of a failure (down from HCAs’ 20-building threshold) (§ 192.3). Additionally, MCAs include sites where 4-or-more-lane arterial roadways are located within a pipeline’s potential impact radius.

medium consequence areas as defined by new PHMSA regulation

Figure 1. Example of how a pipeline’s potential impact radius and nearby structures interact to determine High Consequence Areas and Medium Consequence Areas where operators must implement Integrity Management programs. Wherever an MCA is identified, operators must conduct integrity assessments (§ 192.710) and reconfirm the pipeline segments’ Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) (§ 192.624).

 

According to the new rules, MAOP reconfirmations are required for all HCA and MCA pipelines segments that can accommodate inline inspection instruments and whose MAOP is equal to or greater than 30% of the pipeline’s specified minimum yield strength(§ 192.624).Operators must develop procedures for MAOP reconfirmation of qualifying MCAs by July 1, 2021.

The new rules present a tight timeline for compliance. If operators are to meet the deadline of producing MAOP reconfirmation procedures by mid-2021, they must immediately begin to identify the newly required MCAs – zones that operators have never needed to consider until now.The arc of policy is pushing the pipeline industry evermore toward risk abatement and stewardship of human health. SolSpec’s mission is to help industry efficiently align with and lead the trajectory toward safety and sustainability. SolSpec uses high-performance computing and artificial intelligence to empower operators with fast, meaningful data and analytics that set the bar for hazard identification and prediction, resource allocation, and risk management.

Traditional integrity management programs focus on the integrity of the pipeline; yet, a pipeline’s safety also depends on the stability of its surrounding environment. The Right-of-Way Integrity Management solution addresses external threats to pipelines for a more complete integrity program. The RIMSpec’s annual subscription includes access to high-fidelity terrain and orthomosaic libraries through SolSTAC, access to the SolSpec viewer and deliverables in the form of risk prioritization, monitoring plans, emergency response plans, and analytic layers.

SolSpec Transforms Risk Assessments for Civil Infrastructure Inspections with New Aerial Data Geoprocessing Platform

SolSpec Transforms Risk Assessments for Civil Infrastructure Inspections with New Aerial Data Geoprocessing Platform

New cloud-based solution improves geohazard risk-assessment and erosion control monitoring with fast, accurate, predictive risk analysis

LAS VEGAS – Oct. 29, 2019 – Today at the Commercial UAV Expo, SolSpec, Inc. announced early access to its flagship aerial analytics and data management platform, a cloud-based geoprocessing solution that transforms aerial data into actionable risk analysis and predictive modeling to empower civil and energy infrastructure owners and operators to identify and mitigate problems at every stage of the asset lifecycle. With industry-leading processing speeds, integrated artificial intelligence, and an intuitive web-based interface for creating, organizing and sharing 2D and 3D maps and models and reports, the SolSpec platform enables fast, accurate geohazard risk monitoring and mitigation.

SolSpec will showcase its software at Commercial UAV Expo Booth 601 and will deliver a Product Preview Presentations at the Exhibit Hall Theater, Wed. Oct. 30 at 1:45 pm.

“We built the SolSpec platform to unlock the unprecedented value that can be created by combining aerial data with ground-based project data,” said Tobias Kraft, founder and CEO of SolSpec. “We’re working with some of the nation’s largest energy infrastructure operators, environmental consulting firms and policymakers to advance our our risk prediction models and analyses to deliver fast, reliable solutions that help solve complex problems involving energy, civil infrastructure, environment and natural resources management. We’re excited to announce a new wave of customer onboarding to the SolSpec platform for accurate geohazard risk monitoring and mitigation.”

The SolSpec platform has been in closed beta for three months, used in conjunction with SolSpec’s recently-released ROW Integrity Management product, a programmatic approach with a suite of tools, analytics and reports currently used by dozens of contractors, surveyors, engineers and pipeline operators in the oil and gas and energy industries. To date, the platform has processed and analyzed over 130 TB of aerial data, collected from over 3 million acres, with millions more planned for the first half of next year. SolSpec is now welcoming a limited number of qualified companies to join the early access program. Interested energy, civil and surveying professionals can apply here.

Geohazards and land disturbances such as landslides, erosion and subsidence, and other mass soil movement pose a threat to critical infrastructure such as pipelines. Through a combination of SolSpec’s drone flight plans and manned-aircraft operations, data collection and advanced analytics powered by SolSpec’s massively-scalable processing engines, operators can detect and predict hazards and gather actionable insights to strategically prioritize mitigation efforts. This proactive approach enables stakeholders to address issues before they become problems, reduce or eliminate the severity of impact, reduce time to respond or repair, and reduce costs, while protecting the environment and public safety.

Key features and capabilities:

  • Supports imagery from airborne sensors including drones, manned aircraft and satellites, and processes multiple data types including photogrammetry, GIS Data and survey data.
  • The company routinely incorporates project-specific data collected by environmental consulting firms to strengthen models.
  • Using high performance cloud computing and spatial clustering the platform is massively scalable, able to process large datasets simultaneously with unprecedented speed and geodetic accuracy — processing imagery in minutes or hours, not days or weeks.
  • Intuitive, easy-to-use web interface allows users to easily create and share interactive maps, models, and reports. The ability to process multiple flights from numerous pilots on shared projects simultaneously allows for efficient, rapid workflows.
  • Secure, redundant and unlimited storage prevents loss and unauthorized access of data.
  • A full suite of industry-specific analysis tools and workflows tailored to the oil and gas industry and civil engineering industries.
  • Streamlined compliance reporting with at-a-glance summaries and regulator-approved reporting documentation, covering projects ranging from a few acres to thousands.

“With SolSpec, we eliminate much of the guesswork from identifying issues that pose the greatest risk to our projects,” said Todd Knapp, Vice President at Hanging H Companies, a pipeline construction company. “Using SolSpec, we can now confidently and accurately predict where and how geohazards, stormwater and erosion could impact assets before they occur, and assess why they occurred after the fact. This means better construction planning, safer operations, fewer incidents and shut-ins, reduced costs and greater confidence for pipeline integrity and safe operations.”

Todd Knapp and SolSpec CEO Toby Kraft will present during the Commercial UAV Expo on “Advancing Pipeline Safety with Aerial Analytics and UAVs,” Tuesday 10/29 at 2:00 pm in Pavilion 3. For more information visit https://www.expouav.com/session/energy-vertical-breakout-session.

The broad commercial release of the platform is expected in the first quarter of 2020.

About SolSpec
SolSpec, Inc. is a leading provider of data analytics to the energy and civil engineering markets. SolSpec’s solution utilizes high-throughput data processing and artificial intelligence algorithms to identify and predict project-based risk for pipeline right of ways (ROW), infrastructure construction and large land development projects. Founded in 2017, SolSpec today works with some of the largest companies in the midstream oil and gas industry. Visit us online at solspec.io.

SolSpec Selected for Technology Showcase at Shale Insight Conference

SolSpec Selected for Technology Showcase at Shale Insight Conference

SolSpec’s ROW Integrity Management solution helps detect, predict, and prevent geohazard and environmental risks that affect pipelines.

DENVER, Colorado – Oct. 21, 2019 – SolSpec, Inc., a leading provider of aerial analytics and data management software for energy and civil engineering, will present its aerial pipeline inspection and monitoring solution during the Technology Showcase at SHALE INSIGHT™ 2019, the nation’s leading conference on American shale energy, industries and jobs, Oct. 23-24 at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburg, PA.

SolSpec is among only seven companies selected to present at the Technology Showcase taking place Oct. 24th from 9:00 am to 10:45 am. SolSpec Chief Operating Officer Bryan Crowe will discuss SolSpec ROW Integrity Management, an aerial mapping, modeling and inspection solution for proactively addressing landslides, stormwater runoff, vegetation encroachment, and other geohazards and environmental risks that affect pipeline right-of-ways.

“The use of aerial analytics for pipeline inspection and monitoring creates extraordinary efficiency and accuracy for Pipeline Integrity Management programs, delivering data and actionable insights that support safer and much more efficient pipeline operations,” said Bryan Crowe, COO of SolSpec. “We’re honored to be selected as one of the presenting companies in the Technology Showcase at SHALE INSIGHT and look forward to demonstrating how SolSpec is being used to prioritize how crews monitor pipeline assets to lower risk and prioritize resources while reducing operating cost and increasing safety.”

The Appalachian region remains the largest natural gas-producing region in the United States. Appalachian natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica/Point Pleasant shales of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania continued to grow, with gross withdrawals increasing from 24.2 Bcf/d in 2017 to 28.5 Bcf/d in 2018. As demand rises, ensuring efficient, safe and environmentally sound transport of natural gas through interstate pipelines and other critical infrastructure are paramount to the future of the shale industry. Identifying environmental conditions on and off the ROW that may threaten the integrity of pipeline infrastructure is crucial for expediting incident response and providing ongoing proactive issue mitigation.

SolSpec ROW Integrity Management is a data-driven environmental and geohazard risk analysis and modeling solution for analyzing known and potential threats to right-of-ways. A full-service offering, SolSpec’s team of data scientists and FAA-licensed pilots start by first collecting photogrammetry and LiDAR data within the right-of-way via manned or unmanned aircraft and create a baseline risk assessment with plug-and-play flight plans for ongoing monitoring of high-risk areas. Data is then processed via SolSpec’s secure cloud-based geoprocessing platform and proprietary analytical models based on analysis of over 1.7 million acres of landslides and ROW projects to create high-resolution maps and 3D models for comprehensively visualizing and quantifying risk to pipeline safety by measuring slip conditions, hydrology, erosion control, and slip potential. Models and analysis consider factors as specific regional population density, product type, class location, potential impact radius, and environmentally sensitive areas and produce simple, actionable easy to use reports. With this information, operators can allocate resources to the areas that may have the largest impact, mitigating risk, accelerating incident response and time to repair, reducing costs and improving public safety and environmental responsibility.

In addition to the Technology Showcase presentation, SolSpec will demonstrate its solutions at SHALE INSIGHT, exhibitor booth 334.

About SHALE INSIGHT:
Hosted jointly by the Marcellus Shale Coalition™ (MSC), the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, SHALE INSIGHT™ is a leading and widely-attended policy, innovation and energy outlook-focused forum. As part of the conference, the MSC Research Collaborative will host the annual Technology Showcase on October 24, 2019 from 9:00 am – 10:45 am in which suppliers of emerging technologies introduce their innovations to the natural gas producer, midstream/pipeline, downstream and service communities. More information shaleinsight.com.

About SolSpec:
SolSpec was founded in 2017 with the goal to improve environmental and public safety and to increase efficiencies for the energy industry. SolSpec’s aerial analytics and data management platform represents best-in-class data processing for all aerial imagery. Leading companies in the energy, oil and gas industries rely on SolSpec to transform aerial data into actionable insights that inform decisions to create a safer and more sustainable planet. Visit us online at solspec.io.

Policy Briefing: Proposed Gas Gathering Line Rule Nears Finish Line

Policy Briefing: Proposed Gas Gathering Line Rule Nears Finish Line

In this post, we will take a look at how proposed regulations for gas gathering lines are marching toward the rulemaking finish line, signaling a moment to consider aerial technology to support compliance initiatives.

Executive Summary

Risks associated with gas gathering lines have increased in recent years.
PHMSA proposed gas gathering line rulemaking and recently sought input from the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee (GPAC) for the development of the final rule.
GPAC recommended a set of minimum safety standards for gas gathering lines greater than 8.625 inches; detailed annual and incident-based reporting; and application of the potential impact radius (PIR) methodology for larger-diameter gas gathering lines.

stormwater management example
Planting vegetation is one of the many ways to mitigate the movement of earth on pipelines.

Gas Gathering Line Rulemaking

Gathering lines are pipelines used to transport oil or natural gas from the original site of production to another facility for further refinement or to transmission pipelines. Gathering operations have historically been low pressure, small-diameter systems that posed little risk to public safety and thus drew little regulatory oversight. In recent years, however, shale gas development has greatly increased the use of higher pressure, larger diameter gathering lines, and to date there are an estimated 91,000 miles of gathering pipelines that are unregulated in the U.S. These conditions combine to heighten the risks associated with gas gathering lines.

In response to statutory obligations and growing concerns regarding gathering lines, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed extensive rulemaking in 2016 titled Safety of Gas Transmission and Gathering Pipelines, also known as the “gas mega rule.” Since then, the sweeping proposal has been split into three separate rulemakings, one of which is dedicated to gas gathering lines.

The proposed gas gathering rule is now in the process of clearing its final rulemaking hurdles before taking effect. Among the milestones passed in this process was a recent review with recommendations by the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee.

Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee Recommendations

The Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee (GPAC) is a statutorily-mandated committee that advises PHMSA on proposed gas pipeline safety standards and their associated feasibility and impacts. GPAC met in late June 2019 to discuss and provide PHMSA with feedback on its proposed gas gathering line rule. If PHMSA incorporates GPAC’s recommendations into the final rule, operators will be required to:

Follow a minimum set of requirements for gathering lines 8.625 inches in diameter and greater, including standards for design, construction, inspection, and damage prevention;
Submit specific location and causal information in incident report forms; and
Apply the potential impact radius (PIR) methodology to provide safety and environmental protections for larger-diameter gathering lines (i.e., greater than 12.75 inches).

GPAC also recommended a 24-month adjustment period for compliance with proposed annual reporting requirements.

What’s next?

With consideration given to GPAC’s recommendations, PHMSA is currently developing a draft of the final gas gathering line rule for internal review by the agency and the Department of Transportation (DOT). Next, the draft final rule will be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget before being approved and published. The DOT anticipates the final rule to take effect in mid-2020.

As the new gas gathering line rule works its way toward the finish line, currently unregulated gathering line operators should proceed with a thorough review of forthcoming regulatory obligations and develop a sound strategy for ensuring compliance. Adopting an aerial imagery program with analytics built for midstream oil and gas will be a boon for compliance and working forward with regulatory agencies.

How Can Big Data Impact Land Reclamation?

How Can Big Data Impact Land Reclamation?

Toby Kraft, Founder and CEO of SolSpec, spoke about “Playing Offense and Being Industry Advocates” at the May 19, 2019 Summit for Reclamation and Construction. The annual Summit, hosted by Huwa Enterprises in Keenesburg, Colorado, is a unique conference where professionals come together to learn, share, and network with industry experts dedicated to protecting the environment.

“So as all good millennials do, I wake up every single day and spend every waking hour engaging with some social media platform,” Kraft opened, introducing the value of big data by drawing a common big data comparison with the advertising world. Social media platforms store extensive information related to their users’ interests, and the massive amount of data generated by millions of users drives much of the backbone of modern marketing.

Why let retail be the main industry that capitalizes on big data? Why aren’t the construction and reclamation and energy industries taking advantage of big data for their projects? These are the questions at the core of Toby’s presentation. Collecting data and providing information from past and current projects can build benefits for all – we can learn from the mistakes others have made and drive future success. “A lot of you are probably thinking ‘Yeah, okay, that sounds utopian,” quipped Kraft.

Big data can empower decision makers in the construction, energy, and reclamation industries and result in safer, more successful projects. But success can only come from working together to improve our industries’ practices. Kraft called on his colleagues at the Summit to remember that “our neighbor’s failure or our competitor’s failure is our failure.” Collaborating and building databases of geographic information doesn’t weaken your company or strengthen the opposition. Uniting our data and sharing information is the approach that will keep our industries strong, because without it our future work is threatened.

Kraft’s vision with SolSpec is not just to identify hazards that already exist. Combining data gathered regarding surface hydrology, soil information, geologic details, and the massive stores of siloed data that runs across the industry and third parties makes it possible to predict future hazards. A prioritized list of current and potential hazards empowers decision makers to prioritize mitigation efforts and resources, and do better work for long-term success and improved community relations.

Diving into real-life scenarios, Kraft highlighted for the audience the value and impact of data-driven solutions in land reclamation and construction. One example was Appalachia, one of the richest areas in natural gas in North America. Recent construction of infrastructure, more in the last five years than in the previous fifty, has resulted in loss of vegetation in deciduous forests. These forests and unconsolidated soils cover the characteristic steep slopes of the region. Big rainstorms in this context can cause mass soil movement and landslides, which compromise local pipelines and assets. Compromised pipeline and right-of-way integrity cause undue risk, environmental damage, and financial loss.

Another example Kraft discussed was California, which is dealing with increased threats from fires. Last year’s Camp Fire burned 150,000 acres, destroyed the city of Paradise, and killed 46 people. The likely cause of the fire was a spark from a utility asset that caught the vegetation near the asset. Data gathered from flyovers and processed with analytics can reveal vegetation encroachment. That information can help direct fire prevention efforts around existing utilities and stop a destructive disaster.

“What could the headlines look like a year from now if we all come together around these issues and we get ahead of it and we play offense? What could the future look like?” asked Kraft. Fewer disasters, increased efficiency, prioritized use of resources, and improved reputations for our industries. To learn more about how Kraft and the team at SolSpec are taking our industries to the cutting edge, go to https://solspec.io.

If you’re interested in attending, sponsoring, or exhibiting at the 2020 Summit, go to www.usareclamation.com for more information.

ROW Integrity Management Press Release

ROW Integrity Management Press Release

SolSpec has exciting news to share! We have officially launched our ROW management program.

This program attempts to address problems that are often faced in the field on right-of-ways (ROW). SolSpec saw an opportunity to use drones, computers and big data to provide clear, simple answers to the decision-makers who build and manage pipelines. Our clients are in need of a tool that is intuitive and powerful enough to solve complex problems. Geospatial technology– photogrammetry, LiDAR and analytics — provide them with information so that they can act on in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks. Our clients dramatically lower their risk exposure, can predict where problems might occur before they happen, while getting more accurate, reliable information from the field, straight to their desktop in near real time.

How?

Read more about it on our press release: