Category Archives: safety

Jake Rubin Harvey and Irma Assessment

Hurricane Harvey satellite image - courtesy NOAA/NASA

Hurricane Harvey satellite image – courtesy NOAA/NASA

AGA is closely monitoring the impacts of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted by the destruction these natural disasters have caused. There will no doubt be a long road to recovery, and natural gas utilities in Florida and Texas, and beyond, are working tirelessly to help aid in that recovery.

During a disaster of the magnitude seen with both Harvey and Irma, natural gas utilities, first and foremost, look to confirm that all employees in the affected areas are safe and accounted for and to assess injuries or safety incidents. Thus far, we are getting positive reports from our members in the affected areas and seeing encouraging accounts in the media.

SNL Energy’s Sarah Smith reported on Tuesday afternoon that, “The gas utilities of the Southeast appear to have come through Hurricane Irma with minimal infrastructure damage despite the devastation wrought over large swaths of the region.”

Smith recounts positive news from Florida Public Utilities Co., Florida City Gas and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.

E&E’s David Iaconangelo analyzes the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma on the oil and gas industry. He spoke with Richard Kuprewicz, president of Accufacts Inc., who said in the lead-up to Irma’s landfall that pipelines were often designed “so they can run independently, like an island on their own.”

The piece goes on to note that, “Operators of the Gulfstream and Sabal Trail pipelines, which deliver natural gas from neighboring states to central Florida, said Irma had not interrupted service.”

It is still too early in the evaluation and recovery process to determine whether or not the planned resilience of the natural gas delivery system performed as intended.

In July, the Natural Gas Council, which collectively represents companies that produce, transport and deliver clean, affordable natural gas throughout the United States, released a joint report, “Natural Gas: Reliable and Resilient” that provides a practical guide to the operational measures, physical characteristics and contractual underpinnings of the natural gas system’s exceptional record of reliability and resilience.

Dave McCurdy, our President and CEO, said, “all along the natural gas supply chain, from production to end-use delivery, the industry employs a portfolio of tools to help ensure protection of its facilities from both and physical and cybersecurity threats.”

Our thoughts are with all those in Texas, Florida and other areas hit by these natural disasters for a safe and speedy recovery.

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Rebecca Massello Marrying Safety and Security – Natural Gas Utilities Build a Better Tomorrow

Promoting a culture of safety has long been the mantra for natural gas utilities. It is core to everything we do. The end goal is simple: protect the general public and our employees, while ensuring the continued safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to our customers. Carrying out this shared goal is the responsibility of every natural gas utility. Recognizing the importance of this role, the American Gas Association adopted the AGA’s Commitment to Enhancing Safety, which outlines voluntary actions being taken by AGA or individual operators.

Post September 11, we saw a new set of challenges on the home front and for critical infrastructure – security. Safe and reliable delivery of natural gas is critical to the health, safety, and economic well-being of our Nation, and natural gas utilities take this charge seriously. Natural gas utilities have historically taken measures to physically protect their assets from sabotage or unintentional harm. These physical security measures are often referred to as “guns, gates, and guards” and are intended to secure the perimeter and keep bad “things” out. As technology has continued to evolve, these tactics have become more advanced, employing technologies like microwave sensors, motion detectors, access controls, and alarms, all intended to give the operators more information and tools to protect their critical assets.

Beyond physical security, there is another rapidly evolving security threat – cyber adversaries. These adversaries can come in many forms, from nation states, to home grown extremists, to activists, to cyber criminals. Whoever the adversary, we face an uphill battle as we leverage an increasing amount of remote and automated technologies that help us to do our jobs more efficiently and reliably. Demonstrating this challenge, the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) has reported that the energy sector accounted for 20 percent of total reported incidents in 2016.[1] The increased deployment of automated technologies must also come with the appropriate cybersecurity controls to help ensure that cyber adversaries are not successful in their ultimate goal. To that aim, we apply a portfolio of tools, policies, procedures and practices intended to make it harder for the adversaries to access critical cyber networks and cause harm.

Today, we demonstrate that we are not just a culture of safety. We are a culture of safety AND security. Last year, the AGA Board of Directors approved AGA’s Commitment to Cyber and Physical Security, articulating our collective goal to stand up against the growing and dynamic security threats that exist. This commitment outlines our voluntary actions to identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover from threats and attacks. While we plan to keep the adversaries out and prevent attacks, we also know that some battles may be lost in this ongoing war, and we also plan how we will quickly recover and continue to reliably deliver critical services to our customers. All these guiding principles are outlined in this commitment statement.

There are approximately 2.5 million miles of pipelines making up the natural gas transmission and distribution infrastructure in the United States.[2] AGA’s members own and operate 2.2 million miles of this infrastructure. The signed letters of commitment to security that AGA has received to date collectively represent 2 million — or 90 percent — of AGA mileage, illustrating our dedication to these voluntary security actions.

As we march forward and carry out the principles outlined in this industry commitment, we continue to ensure that security is integral to everything we do. The security challenge is one that cannot be taken with complacency, and natural gas utilities are up to the challenge as we proactively take steps to help ensure that natural gas delivery continues to be safe, reliable, and secure into the future. For more on our commitment, click here.

[1] https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/Annual_Reports/Year_in_Review_FY2016_Final_S508C.pdf

[2] Based on PHMSA Annual Report Data, April 2017

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Dave McCurdy Your Safety is Our Top Priority

There is nothing more important to America’s natural gas utilities than the safety of the customers we serve and the communities in which we operate. Our customers are our friends, families and neighbors and we take every incident involving a natural gas pipeline very seriously.

The American Gas Association and our members are proud of the industry’s overall safety performance and the culture of safety that has been cultivated at each local gas utility throughout the country.

While we see news coverage about specific events, incidents on natural gas pipelines resulting in fatalities and injuries are not common. The United States has seen an approximately 40 percent decline in pipeline incidents over the past 10 years. Any injury or loss of life is tragic and the industry works every day to avoid it. These numbers include causes outside the direct control of the utility, such as people driving into gas meters, damage to the pipelines caused by excavation, customers tampering with their gas meters, appliance failures or incidents that take place within a customer’s home. These, along with weather-related events cause a great number of natural gas incidents—something that is not often included in news coverage.

We believe that one incident is too many and we are consistently looking to make improvements that will continue to enhance safety and reliability. After an incident occurs, utilities work to understand what happened and how to avoid something similar happening in the future. The industry is working with stakeholders such as firefighters, schools and building contractors on a variety of initiatives that focus on protecting customers and raising awareness of natural gas safety.

There are certain actions you can take to help mitigate the chances of a natural gas incident occurring:

1. Pay attention in order to help identify potential signs of a natural gas leak. There are several ways to detect a natural gas leak.

  • Smell: Because an odorant called mercaptan is added to natural gas by the utility to help you detect its presence, the best sign of a natural gas leak is if you smell something similar to rotten eggs.
  • Sight: Look for dirt blowing into the air, persistent bubbling in standing water, or discolored or dead vegetation around the pipeline area.
  • Sound: Listen for any unusual hissing sounds.

In the event you think you smell, see or hear any of these signs of natural gas, leave the home, building or vicinity immediately and call your natural gas utility.

Information about how to respond to a potential leak or these warning signs varies throughout the country based on a variety of factors, including climate and soil condition. To learn how transmission pipelines near you or your distribution utility addresses leaks, contact them directly.

2. Know What’s Below: Call 811 Before You Dig. Be sure to call 811 at least three full days before you perform any digging work, even if it is something as simple as planting a tree in your yard. This will allow the local utilities to come and mark the location of any underground lines so that you can avoid damaging them when you dig. Visit www.call811.com.

3. Help make sure that all those who are performing any excavation work in your neighborhood have notified 811. This would include any work done in the public right-of-way, as well as work done by individuals in their yard. If a call to 811 has been made, underground utilities in the vicinity of the excavation site will come to the site prior to the start of excavation and will mark the location of their buried facility through painted lines, flags or other markers. If a call to 811 has not been made prior to excavation, this could possibly result in damage to underground facilities, including natural gas pipelines.

4. Do not tamper with the gas meter. Use a licensed professional to perform periodic inspections of customer-owned fuel lines delivering natural gas to appliances, equipment and structures.

There are over 2.5 million miles of natural gas pipelines that serve more than 177 million Americans. The ongoing decline in pipeline incidents is due to the dedicated efforts of natural gas utilities and regulators to enhance safety programs and raise awareness about the need for active involvement by customers and communities. Natural gas utilities spend $22 billion annually to help enhance the safety of natural gas distribution and transmission systems. AGA’s member companies work together to identify and share best practices to help enhance safety and reliability.

Natural gas utilities and pipelines deliver over a quarter of the energy used every day in America and more homes and businesses use natural gas today than ever before. Those numbers continue to increase. Whether you are a customer or not, know what to look for and if you see something, say something. Working together, we can make our communities safer.

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Lisa O'Leary National Safe Digging Month Begins

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Image Courtesy Common Ground Alliance

This April marks the ninth annual National Safe Digging Month (NSDM), an initiative put in place by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) to raise awareness about safe digging practices and the importance of calling 811 to prevent accidents, property damage and outages.

Before you embark on any excavation project big or small, be sure to dial 811 to be connected to your local One Call Center which will gather information and alert your local utility company. Crews will then locate the utility lines near your planned project and make sure they are properly marked so you can be sure to avoid them. Both the call and the service are fast, simple and free.

Construction and digging damage is the leading cause of pipeline incidents across the country, most of which can be prevented if proper protocol is followed. Thanks in large part to the work being done by CGA and AGA-member natural gas utilities to promote “Call 811,” excavation damages for all underground facilities have drastically decreased by approximately 50 percent since 2004.

Throughout this month, AGA will be highlighting the creative ways local natural gas utilities are educating the public about this crucial, and potentially life-saving, program on Twitter, Facebook and the True Blue Natural Gas blog. Let us know what your utility has planned by posting below or emailing Jackie Bavaro at jbavaro@aga.org.

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