Over the last few years, there have been several mysterious accidents that have occurred at oil rig platforms and gas stations. Over long-time periods of investigation, many of these accidents were discovered to be the result of pipeline explosions. Pipeline accidents are especially dangerous because they can develop into very serious disasters, such as oil spills, gas leaks, and overall severe injuries and fatalities. As a regular citizen or someone who works near pipelines, it’s crucial to know how these incidents can occur.
How Do These Accidents Happen?
Pipeline transportation was actually created in order to be a safer option. Oil pipelines have been found to be 70 times safer than trucks, which actually have killed four times as many people in a four-year time span compared to pipelines. Unfortunately, when pipelines fail, their consequences are much more catastrophic and can result in intense federal investigations. There are several ways that a pipeline could break:
- Equipment corrosion: The number one reason that pipelines fail is simply because they are too old. More than half of the country’s pipelines are at least 50 years old, and this aging can lead to big leaks and ruptures. A natural gas pipeline exploded in Allentown, Pennsylvania that had been installed in 1928.
- Construction worker carelessness: Many times, construction workers that are working on a digging project will accidentally hit a pipe with their heavy excavation equipment. This can be due to construction employees not having enough knowledge of the pipeline map of their location, and hence not realizing how close the pipelines are to digging tools.
- Natural disasters: Hurricane Sandy destroyed several natural gas pipelines on New Jersey’s barrier islands. Hurricanes in general are a danger to pipelines because heavy rains and flooding can loosen the surrounding pavement and expose the lines.
- Lack of safety regulation: The PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) has been criticized for lacking proper resources to properly monitor the millions of miles of pipelines that it has the duty to protect. Especially with the older pipelines, the PHMSA claims that it’s difficult to have enough employees to cover all proper regulations in the country.