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The potential effects of soil disturbances and ground movement on pipelines cannot be overstated. Consequently, operators of gas pipelines are required by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to consider "Exposure to natural forces in the area of the pipeline, including geology, and soil stability of the area” per §192.917(b). For hazardous liquid pipelines, “Local environmental factors,” such as “subsidence,” “climatic,” and “geo-technical hazards” are some of the risk factors to be considered per §195.452(e).

With more frequent earthquakes, hurricanes, and heavy rains, more attention is being paid to how pipeline operators respond to such “natural forces.” In fact, the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has cast a spotlight on the importance of considering the risk that weather poses with Part Two of the Gas Mega Rule published August 24, 2022 as well as the final rule for Hazardous Liquid pipelines published October 01, 2019 (sometimes referred to as the Liquid Mega Rule).

These recent rulemakings require operators to inspect affected pipeline areas within 72 hours of extreme weather events and natural disasters per §192.613 and §195.414. Additionally, “seismicity” was also included in these Mega Rule updates as another factor to consider when evaluating potential threats on gas and liquid pipelines per §192.917(b) and §195.452(g).

Knowing if a weather or “trigger” event could impact your system is paramount. These are described as events that have “the likelihood of damage to pipeline facilities by the scouring or movement of the soil surrounding the pipeline or movement of the pipeline.” Therefore, the solution becomes identifying where your pipeline or the surrounding environment is most likely to move. How do we achieve this? Data. Or more aptly put, a centralized software system that ingests and aligns all the relevant data, making it easy to identify, prioritize, and review the at-risk sites along your system. So that when a weather or “trigger” event occurs, you’ll know how to adequately respond.

Identify and Gather Data

Data serves as the solid foundation for managing the threat of geohazards and weather events (and any pipeline integrity threat, for that matter). By understanding the geohazard data, the probability of pipeline or soil movement triggered by weather events can be qualified. The relevant data sources for understanding said threats include:

  • Pipeline centerlines:
    • With inline inspection (ILI) data via inertial mapping unit (IMU)
    • Without ILI
  • Landslide Hazards Maps
  • National Transportation Data
  • National Hydrography Data
  • National Boundary Data
  • Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) Data
  • National Wetlands Data
  • National Temperature and Precipitation Maps
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS) Seismic Activity


Integrate Data

Although identifying what information is needed to properly conduct a threat assessment and then finding the correct sources for said information can be a big undertaking, aligning the aggregated data with your pipeline can prove even more complicated. However, data alignment is critical for accurately assessing the geohazard threat along your pipeline.

In many cases, the relevant geohazard and pipeline data is stored across multiple systems or programs, making integration and alignment difficult. Isolated silos (such as individual Excel spreadsheets) often evolve from an effort to manage data closely, ironically making it more difficult to use. Siloed geohazard data creates several problems:

  • Bulky workflows: Information typically needs to be requested from the silo owner, a step that can make for a time-consuming work process.
  • Data variances: Storing and managing datasets separately eventually creates disparities between similar datasets, raising the question: “Which is correct?”
  • Unvalidated additions: Individual groups resolving data omissions increases the risk of error and decreases confidence in the data.

To this point, when outlining the requirements to integrate pipeline integrity data, PHMSA writes “Storing the information in a geographic information system (GIS), alone, is not sufficient. An operator must analyze for interrelationships among the data.” (See CFR §195.452(g).) To that end, modern solutions are significantly more efficient than outdated manual alignment for ingesting and consolidating disparate data sources.

Identify Priority Locations

Once your pipeline data is aligned, you’re ready to identify and rank the locations along your right-of-way in terms of the geohazard threat e.g. sites with steep slopes on either side of a river crossing may have a high probability for a landslide. Ideally, you can follow the right-of-way virtually to identify priority or at-risk locations and the nature of the threat that exists at that location i.e. earthquake, flood, etc. By integrating additional pipeline integrity data, like ILI results, anomalies and features like dents, weld defects, and bends can be taken into account as well.

Monitor Priority Locations

Now priority locations can be reviewed both before and after an extreme weather event or natural disaster, such as after a hurricane, named tropical storm, flood, landslide, or earthquake.

Per CFR requirements, “an operator must assess the nature of the event” to determine the appropriate initial pipeline inspection method that will determine the extent of any damage. With the help of a centralized database that consists of updated geohazard data aligned with pipeline data, the need to perform an inspection within 72 hours of the event, can more easily be decided. Evaluation of the initial inspection may result in 1) further investigation, 2) remedial action, or 3) no action necessary.

Demonstrate Compliance

Identifying geohazard at-risk locations, assessing them after an event, and carrying out the necessary actions closes the loop. Additionally, documenting each step along the way is important for operators to prove they’re following a process to manage geohazards and weather events effectively. In the case of the Gas (and Liquid) Mega Rule requirement, an operator can demonstrate compliance by presenting records that show:

  • The state of the pipeline before an event via a centralized database
  • The state of the pipeline after the event via a centralized database
  • Results of any required inspections within 72 hours
  • Evaluation of results
  • Proof of any action(s) taken, if needed


Managing Environmental Factors with CIM

Operators need a robust system for identifying, monitoring, and managing threats due to weather and geohazards effectively. OneBridge’s Cognitive Integrity ManagementTM (CIM) is a fully integrated enterprise-level solution that ingests, aligns, and tracks crucial geohazard data, including the history and results of your remediation activities, providing you with a fully comprehensive solution for managing the threat of weather events and geohazards.

To find out how you can start managing your geohazard program with CIM, Contact OneBridge today.