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Gas and pipelines sector strategy 2012-15

Sector description


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.

Key stakeholders

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

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:

Legislation and regulation

The specific regulations are:

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.

Future trends

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:

Aims for 2012–15

Avoiding catastrophe


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.

Wider issues

Increasing competence

Securing justice

To promote sustained compliance with the law.

Mandatory objectives

To deliver regulatory responsibilities for the gas and pipelines sector.

Updated 2021-02-25