Gas and pipelines sector strategy 2012-15
- Three types of operation and facilities:
- Offshore pipelines (20 000km)
- Onshore pipelines (230 000km)
- Gas importation and storage
- Most operators have a highly trained management and workforce
- Many operators are multinational companies
- Crucial to meeting GB's energy needs
- Potential for catastrophic outcomes
Pipelines transport oil and gas between the 260 offshore installations and to shore. Pipeline integrity is essential to securing the safety of offshore installations, but also plays a key part in ensuring oil and gas leaks are prevented and the environment is protected. An essential element of protection of offshore installations is the riser emergency shut down valve (RESDV) which forms part of the pipeline.
The majority of pipelines make up the gas transmission and distribution system which transports gas across the country for use by industrial and domestic consumers. The network extends to every consumer’s meter. The national network is operated by four key dutyholders; smaller networks are operated by independent companies. Other pipelines are also used to transport gasoline, kerosene, ethylene and other industrial products.
Gas importation is via two routes. Sub-sea pipelines known as interconnectors import and export gas from and to continental Europe and Ireland. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is imported via ship and unloaded and stored at four key terminals prior to gasification and injection into the transmission system. It is expected that by 2020 50% of GB’s gas demand will be met via LNG imports.
Gas is also stored in underground cavities in salt deposits and in depleted reservoirs from which gas or other hydrocarbons have previously been extracted.
The majority of dutyholders are national and multinational companies with highly trained managers and staff. Strong leadership is required to maintain and apply skills appropriately to ensure the continued safety of assets which in many cases are aging significantly.
The focus of the strategy is to ensure the prevention of failure of pipelines and storage facilities which could lead to the release of gas and give rise to catastrophic fire and explosion involving workers and members of the public. Conventional health and safety risks affecting workers in the industry are addressed through other strategies (eg construction).
Gas supply failures have the potential to leave industry without energy and the public without heating. In severe winter weather vulnerable groups could be at risk of hypothermia. Working with Department of Energy and Climate Change and gas industry stakeholders to improve the management of any large-scale gas supply emergency is therefore also a strategic aim.
- Gas distribution network operators (GDNs): National Grid, Scotia Gas Networks, Wales & West Utilities and Northern Gas Networks
- Gas national transmission system (NTS) operator (National Grid)
- Government bodies: DECC, Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), Environment Agency
- Industry bodies and groups: United Kingdom Onshore Pipeline Operators' Association (UKOPA), Gas Transporters Operational Safety Group (GTOSG), PLUG
- Professional bodies: Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM)
- Trades unions: General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union (GMB), Unison, Prospect
Professional and industry bodies provide essential mechanisms to define worker and management competence and plant design and operation standards, to share learning across industry and to support and stimulate leadership at all levels. Links with these stakeholders also provide opportunities to identify emerging issues and for them to make a positive contribution to further development of this strategy.
Safety and health issues
- The principle risk is fire and explosion associated with loss of containment of gas or volatile fluids carried within pipelines
- Offshore failure of the riser or Riser Emergency Shut Down Valve (RESDV) can threaten the integrity of any installation and the lives of workers
- Onshore the risk is generally to members of the public
- Aging infrastructure is a significant threat to asset integrity
- Third-party interference (offshore - anchor damage, onshore – construction and agricultural activities) can also be a significant cause of pipeline failure
Irrespective of the nature or age of the asset, failures leading to accidents must be rare events. It is therefore essential that industry develops safety performance indicators (SPIs) to ensure risks are adequately monitored and managed. The leadership to ensure necessary improvements are identified and carried forward must be in place and senior managers must be accountable for delivery.
Many pipelines (particularly offshore) are operated by companies involved in the wider energy sector. For these organisations the challenge is to maintain adequate focus on pipeline safety. Some companies have responded by contracting out pipeline management - in these circumstances they need to ensure adequate competence and investment are brought to risk management.
There are two particular issues associated with the gas distribution system:
- Iron gas mains can fail unexpectedly leading to loss of gas and the risk of fire and explosion threatening occupied premises in the vicinity. Various programmes have been developed to deal with this risk by replacing iron pipes with more flexible polyethylene pipes. HSE has worked with the GDNs to develop an iron mains risk management programme to ensure these risks are managed within the Ofgem RIIO (Revenue=Incentives+Innovation+Outputs) price review mechanisms.
- Gas holders are an aging asset that can give rise to significant risk if inappropriate developments are allowed in the vicinity. Local planning authorities should take account of such risks and HSE makes available assistance in making these judgements. HSE is also in dialogue with industry and Ofgem to develop a strategy for removing holders as part of the RIIO business planning process.
Legislation and regulation
The specific regulations are:
- Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (COMAH)
- Gas Safety (Management) Regulations (GMSR)
- Pipelines Safety Regulations (PSR)
They provide a strong regulatory framework which builds upon the general requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSW Act) requiring the identification of risks, the implementation of appropriate risk controls and the prevention and mitigation of major accidents.
Strategic regulatory and sector approach
HSE will continue to maintain a fit-for-purpose robust regulatory regime where compliance delivers appropriate and proportional risk control.
HSE will investigate incidents to ensure underlying causes are identified and addressed. Industry will be stimulated to investigate a wider range of near misses and to share learning.
HSE will continue to work with Ofgem to ensure safety is adequately accounted for within the industry pricing mechanisms. Cooperation will be maintained with DECC to ensure that safety considerations support the continued and reliable operation of strategically important gas importation, processing, storage and distribution assets and that investigations into environmentally significant releases to the marine environment are supported.
Importation of LNG is expected to increase over the next decade and the challenge will be to maintain existing standards as the throughput at the existing terminals increases. The number of large-scale salt cavity and depleted reservoir stores is expected to increase.
Emerging energy technologies may also give rise to new challenges:
- Carbon capture and storage technologies will provide technical challenges to the safe transport of CO2 from power stations to underground storage
- Biogas injection into the gas distribution network will challenge network integrity and require processes to remove impurities and maintain the calorific value of the resultant gas to ensure it is appropriate for the end user
- Gas released from fracking operations may also be transported through pipelines and trends in the production of gas from this source will be monitored. HSE will continue to liaise with DECC on this issue as DECC has the primary role in licensing extraction sites
Aims for 2012–15
- Organisations managing major risks demonstrate to themselves, regulators and society that they are successfully leading and managing the prevention of catastrophic incidents
- Lessons from management failures are learnt and good practice is shared among those responsible for managing major accident risks
- The integrity of onshore and offshore pipelines, associated plant and the gas distribution network is assured
From board level down there is effective leadership on major hazard risks and clear accountability for managing those risks.
Healthier, safer workplaces
Health and safety risks from new and emerging technologies are recognised and effectively managed.
- There is active engagement from within and beyond the health and safety system to minimise regulatory burdens
- A consistent approach that implements the Seveso Directive principles is taken to major hazard issues
- Sector leaders, employees and contractors understand the major hazard risks and consequences, and are committed to maintaining critical controls and safe working practices
- The regulator is competent to fulfil its statutory obligations within the health and safety system
To promote sustained compliance with the law.
To deliver regulatory responsibilities for the gas and pipelines sector.