Stopping the Danger Before It Starts: Preventing Exposed Pipelines

Stopping the Danger Before It Starts: Preventing Exposed Pipelines

The U.S. has over 2.5 million miles of pipelines crisscrossing the country. As existing lines grow older, critics warn that the risk of accidents could increase. Many pipelines transport petroleum products and natural gas, and some pipelines transport other hazardous products such as chemicals, highly volatile liquids, anhydrous ammonia, or carbon dioxide. Exposure to these products can be harmful if inhaled and can cause eye and skin irritation and difficulty in breathing.

While states with the most pipeline mileage (Texas, California, and Louisiana) also have the most incidents, breaks occur throughout the network of pipelines. Since 1986, pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000, and cost nearly seven billion dollars in property damages.

Safest Way to Transport Fuel

Even in the face of those statistics, pipelines are a safer alternative to tanker trucks or freight trains. Based on fatality statistics from 2005 through 2009, oil pipelines are roughly 70 times as safe as transporting those volatile chemicals via truck. However, when a pipeline does fail, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Fortunately, pipeline accidents are extremely rare. Pipeline companies undertake many prevention and safety measures to ensure the integrity of their pipeline systems.

The Safest Solution

A particularly dangerous situation can occur if an underground pipeline is exposed due to erosion or river scour. Scour can occur gradually during floods or the normal ebb and flow of river tides. Construction or other changes upstream and downstream of a pipeline crossing can influence river flow and increase scour. Once the pipeline is exposed, debris in the flowing water can directly impact the pipeline, resulting in failure of the pipeline crossing. Also, an exposed pipeline may experience increased vibration due to the flowing water.

Submar’s articulated concrete revetment mats help fight erosion or river scour and prevent exposed pipelines from becoming an issue. Our mats mimic the riverbank, promote the growth of natural plants and trees, restore the slope, and guard against pipeline exposure.

To learn more, see our projects page.