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In this episode of the Pipeliners Podcast, host Russel Treat recaps the 2019 API Pipeline Conference and Control Room Forum held in April in Phoenix.

Russel recaps the most important takeaways from the conference, gives his perspective on the conversations held throughout the conference, and provides updates on rulemaking.

Topics covered include the state of pipeline safety 20 years after the Bellingham incident, understanding how to interact with Native Americans, pipeline SMS, building a culture of pipeline safety, high-performance HMI, and more critical topics.

API Pipeline Conference Recap: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms

  • API (American Petroleum Institute) is the only national trade association representing all facets of the oil and natural gas industry, which supports 10.3 million U.S. jobs and nearly 8 percent of the U.S. economy. API’s more than 625 members include large integrated companies, as well as exploration and production, refining, marketing, pipeline, and marine businesses, and service and supply firms.
  • The 2019 API Pipeline Conference and Control Room Forum was designed to provide timely and relevant information on Asset Integrity, Risk Management, Construction Management, Workforce Development, and more topics.
    • Control Room Forum: Russel Treat presented a new whitepaper, “Optimizing Emergency Response Through Alarm Management.” [Link to the whitepaper coming soon.]
  • PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) ensures the safe transportation of energy and hazardous materials.
  • The CRM Rule (Control Room Management Rule as defined by 49 CFR Parts 192 and 195) introduced by PHMSA provides regulations and guidelines for control room managers to safely operate a pipeline. PHMSA’s pipeline safety regulations prescribe safety requirements for controllers, control rooms, and SCADA systems used to remotely monitor and control pipeline operations.
  • API 1173 established the framework for operators to implement Pipeline Safety Management Systems (SMS). A significant part of this recommended practice is a training and competency aspect.
    • PipelineSMS.org is a useful resource with various safety tools that was developed by pipeline operators to help other operators enhance safety in their operation. Read the website resources or email pipelinesms@api.org with inquiries.
  • The Bellingham Pipeline Incident occurred in June 1999 when a pipeline ruptured near a creek in Bellingham, Wash., causing deaths and injuries. According to the NTSB report, the cause of the rupture and subsequent fire was a lack of employee training, a faulty SCADA system, and damaged pipeline equipment. [Read the NTSB Pipeline Accident Report]
  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for administering, maintaining, and preserving more than 247 million acres of public land across the U.S.
    • The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) works with the BLM to set up lease agreements for oil and gas production on tribal, allotted, or other Indian land.
  • The Gas Rule (Gas Transmission Integrity Management Rule) specifies how pipeline operators must identify, prioritize, assess, evaluate, repair, and validate the integrity of gas transmission pipelines that could, in the event of a leak or failure, affect High Consequence Areas (HCAs) within the United States.
  • HMI (Human Machine Interface) is the user interface that connects an operator to the controller in pipeline operations. High-performance HMI is the next level of taking available data and presenting it as information that is helpful to the controller to understand the present and future activity in the pipeline.
  • The Marcellus and Utica Shale Formation covers a large area of potential natural gas resources in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.
  • ISO 9001 sets the criteria for quality management in a variety of industries, including petroleum, petrochemical, and natural gas industries.
  • W. Edwards Deming was a post-World War II management process leader through the development and implementation of his quality control system in Japan and eventually in the United States. His work led to the creation of The W. Edwards Deming Institute.
  • CBT (computer-based training) is a method of training that uses a computer or computer software to train a large group of individuals on a specific task or role.
  • Hyperspectral imagery is an advanced method to collect and analyze data using wavelengths beyond the capabilities of human vision. Each pixel in the image contains data that is analyzed to determine activity.

API Pipeline Conference Recap: Full Episode Transcript

Russel Treat:  Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 72, sponsored by EnerSys Corporation, providers of POEMS, the Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System, compliance, and operations software for the pipeline control center. Find out more about POEMS at enersyscorp.com.

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Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now your host, Russel Treat.

Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time. To show that appreciation, we are giving away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener each episode. This week our winner is Robert Burke with Energy Transfer. Congratulations, Robert, your YETI is on its way.

This week on the Pipeliners Podcast, you have yours truly. Actually, as I’m recording this, a little over a week ago, I got back from the API Pipeline Conference and Control Room Forum. I wanted to recap because I thought there was a number of things that occurred at the conference that were noteworthy and really would be of interest to the pipelining community. With that, let’s get started.

The opening session of the API Pipeline Conference, for me, was a bit poignant. You may not be aware of it, but we’re soon coming up on the 20th anniversary of the Bellingham pipeline incident. One of the things that occurred at the keynote is a letter written by the family of Liam Wood, who was a young boy who passed away in the pipeline incident at Bellingham, was written, and was shared at the conference.

It really was very thoughtful, I thought. It certain acknowledged the progress that the pipeline industry has made with regards to pipeline safety since June 10, 1999, when the Bellingham incident occurred, and I think that is noteworthy. It also really says that there’s more to be done, and frankly, I’d have to agree with that.

Probably the key point coming out of this is that the industry doesn’t yet really have a culture of safety. If you think about the airline industry and kind of how it addresses safety, I think you could say that the airline industry has a culture of safety. They put safety first. Anybody who’s flown and been held because of a mechanical issue or weather probably has some direct experience with that.

They call out to the pipeline industry to really re-double and re-focus its efforts in order to create a culture of safety. Really I think that is a great key up for many of the sessions that occurred, which directly addressed pipeline safety management systems and where that is in its process of being created and how it’s maturing and how industry’s adopting it and what’s going on on that front.

This letter was also mentioned in the luncheon keynote that was given by Drue Pearce, who’s the Deputy Administrator of PHMSA. She talked also about some of the upcoming notices and rulemaking that’s likely to affect the liquid pipelining community. They talked about composite repair sleeves, mentioned a number of weld failures that occurred recently on breakout tanks, and some weld and pipe or body failures due to ground movement.

Ground movement was kind of a major topic, particularly for those people that are operating in the Marcellus and the Utica where ground movement seems to be a major challenge.

Of course, she mentioned the ongoing activity at PHMSA to finalize some rulemaking related to the gas rule and remote control valves, shutdown valves, and so forth and kind of the timelines of that. We’ve talked about many of those things on the Pipeliners Podcast recently, so there’s not a lot of new information there.

I think that the key takeaway here for me is that there’s a lot of intentionality around getting some of these Congressional mandates finalized. Also, getting those Congressional mandates finalized and implemented is key given the upcoming Pipeline Safety Act Reauthorization, which we talked about last week. Anyway, that’s all kind of in line with other information we’ve been presenting.

Anytime you go to one of these conferences, you can never get to everything so you kind of try and select what are the key things you want to attend. I wanted to attend one of the sessions addressing working with native people. Really, I’ll tell you, I found this quite enlightening. Like a lot of other things, sometimes, you think you know about a subject and then you go listen to people talk about it and you realize, “Nope, really I don’t very much at all about that subject.”

Without getting into all the detail about what was talked about in the session about coaching and working with native people, here’s what I think is probably most important for any pipeline operator, any person working in the pipeline business that’s working with native peoples. Those communities have a different way of looking at making decisions, and they have a different set of considerations than what I or other engineers would be considering.

In particular, many of the things about the land and about plants on the land and about animals on the land — these things are sacred in their communities. Just as a Christian would hold their faith and their church and the monuments to that faith, they would hold those sacred. Likewise, native people hold many things about the environment sacred. That needs to be understood.

The other thing that is also true is that they make decisions in a different way. They make decisions as a community often, and that timing about decisions and the kind of decisions that can be made is often seasonal. The types of decisions you can make are set with the seasons.

Really, I think for me the key takeaway here is that first seek to understand and then seek to agree. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. I think that for many of us that don’t have experience working with native people and don’t understand their issues and concerns and ways of making decisions, I think that really there’s a lot of wisdom in the idea of first seek to understand what their issues and concerns are and why they have those issues and concerns. Then, out of that, I think there’s more opportunity for collaboration and working together.

I also went to a session on pipeline safety management. We’ve done some episodes on this. We’ve had the API on a couple of times. I’m trying to get some of the industry leadership to come on as a guest to talk about this as well so we can get more of an operator perspective about how to go about implementing pipeline safety management.

There was one presentation and kind of a panel there. They started talking about where are we as a community in implementing pipeline safety management. Really, where I think we are as a liquid pipelining community is we’re transitioning from the development of the standards and of the tools and resources necessary to implement the system, and we’re now beginning to transition to actually getting companies to engage with and adapt and evolve their implementations.

There was also some comparison about where are we as an industry. There was a representative from one of the gas pipelining companies on this panel, and they talked about where they are in implementing pipeline safety management. As an industry, they’re probably a little bit behind us but maybe catching up, maybe even getting ahead of us.

They characterized the gas pipelines as mainly being two years behind the liquid pipelines in adoption of pipeline safety management. One of the things that the group that’s behind getting pipeline safety management going for the industry in a whole is focusing on is getting external engagement, meaning engagement from those outside of the pipeline operating companies themselves such as PHMSA, maybe state regulators, and also their contractors.

For those of you that contract with the pipelines, particularly the big guys, I think you can expect to see pipeline safety management begin to impact your safety requirements for working with those pipelines.

There was also a little bit of a conversation in this committee as well about the letter about the Bellingham incident and asking the question about how do we as a pipeline industry get to a real culture of safety. Certainly, pipeliners are interested in safety. I think the issue is how do we make safety just part of what we do.

Pipeline safety management — one of the points that the panel made is that the implementation of this is it’s all about culture. It’s all about how people think, act, and behave around issues related to safety. It has to come from leadership. It’s not the kind of thing that I can create a pipeline safety management group and they do everything.

You might create a group, and they’re going to help facilitate, but the implementation has to come from the operating leadership all the way down to the line supervisors and those in the field doing the actual work. This requires socialization of the program. It requires an organizational structure with a good definition of roles and responsibilities aligned with what’s in your SMS program. It’s a big deal.

The focus should be on risk management. The reality of any kind of program like this is we have limited resources and limited capability and we want to try and do those things where we can move the needle the most given our unique situation, the program we’re trying to implement, and just the nature of where we are at any time.

There was some interesting conversation about the alignment between lean manufacturing and pipeline safety management. In fact, I’ll do a shout-out to the community. If there’s somebody out there that could talk to this subject, I’d sure like to have you on.

As pipeline safety management is implemented as a comprehensive company program, it kind of begins to look like an ISO 9001 or a quality management program along the lines of Deming and his writing on quality management. I find that pretty compelling.

Edwards Deming is kind of the father of American manufacturing quality. In his early days as he was trying to put forward a system for quality management, it wasn’t adopted in the U.S. He found himself leaving and going to Japan and really turned around the Japanese car industry, and then later in life came back to the U.S. and was adopted and accepted. His programs were implemented in manufacturing. There’s a lot of tie in between ISO 9001 and the Deming Quality Method.

I actually find that kind of interesting because I studied Deming many years ago when I was getting my MBA, and I think there’s probably some — for lack of a better way to say it — there’s some gold in them there hills about really mining some of Deming’s ideas and trying to figure out how to put them in as pipeline safety management and as a statistical process control approach to risk management. To me, it’s kind of an interesting or compelling idea.

One of the recommendations that came out for those that are early in the process of pipeline safety management is with every organization where you go and try to get this implemented, look for some quick wins in order to help get people enrolled in the process. Look for or support management in closing the loop as those quick wins are found and implemented so that you support the kind of, you know, positively support the kind of behavior that you’re looking for.

There was a lot more about pipeline safety management in some of the other conversations, but anyway, that’s kind of the summary of that topic.

There was another what I thought was very interesting presentation in the pipelining side about — these are some big words here, guys — hyperspectral imagery. Said a different way, taking imagery that’s beyond just the wavelengths of things we can see and adding multiple wavelengths and then taking that data and processing it. It creates some real opportunities for a valuation of right-of-ways and leak detection.

The company that made the presentation is using satellites. Each pixel of imagery is 27 square meters, so that would be a little over 5 meters on a side. That’s about 20 yards on a side thereabout, so fairly big piece of ground that’s one pixel as a satellite, but they’re able to get a very large amount of data for each one of these pixels because they’re reading what they see in that pixel through all these different spectrums of data through multiple wavelengths.

It’s a very data-intensive type process. Their thinking is that very soon, probably within the next five years, that this satellite imagery will begin to replace air patrols as a surveillance method. That’s pretty compelling. They actually have the ability already using this imagery approach to identify hydrocarbon contaminants in the soil.

They can identify soil disturbances or soil movement, even things like vehicles driving and there might be no visible sign of soil disturbance, but they can pick it up through this imagery technique. They’re currently on gen one. They are rolling out a generation two of this technology on a satellite in May, and that is going to actually take this 27 square meter pixel down to a 5 square meter pixel.

Now, you’re talking about something that’s about 35 square feet, so less than the size of the typical office. That starts becoming pretty powerful I think in terms of a technology. There’s a lot of issues with this and the technology is new, but it’s evolving very rapidly. Certainly, I think you can expect to see this technology very materially impact what’s currently being done in air patrols.

I don’t think air patrols would disappear. I think what you’ll see is the satellite imagery will be used as a way to do the routine surveillance, and then when detailed surveillance is required, that’ll require an aircraft of some type.

For the Control Room Forum, Byron Coy of PHMSA — most of you guys in pipeline will recognize that name — did a presentation. In particular, he was talking about some of the team training requirements and the authority to direct or supersede related to B5 and H6 in the Control Room Management Rule.

In particular, he was talking about if I’m someone who has the authority to intervene, am I also tracking my hours for hours of service? Do I make sure I’m not fatigued? Am I trained? There was some conversation about team training and its implementation.

In fact, there was a lot of later conversations around team training. I would characterize some of the conversations as energetic about just trying to understand really how do you do this:

What’s the limits of how you can use CBT? Do what extent do you have to have people face-to-face? Does a controller actually need to be in the meeting or can they support the meeting remotely?

All these kinds of things were questions that were kicked around. I can’t tell you there was a lot of clear guidance there, but certainly there was some interesting and engaging conversation.

Of course, I did my presentation on the morning of the last day of the Control Room Forum about optimizing alarm management in the control room to support emergency response. You can go back and listen to the previous podcast on that subject if you’d like to learn more about that.

Then, at the end of the conference, the last presentation was by Jim Johnston of Enbridge. He did probably the best presentation I’ve ever seen on the high-performance HMI and what it really is and why it’s important. I’ll try to recap that.

A lot of people think about high-performance HMI as being about grayscale. Grayscale is not there to do grayscale. Grayscale is there so that when I do use color, colors pop out. Jim talked about that.

There were some interesting questions about why do I need to use color and is the revised API 1165 standard going to require color and that type of thing. Again, I think Jim did an excellent job of really clarifying that grayscale is not about grayscale. Grayscale is about making the use of color more impactful and more effective. We could do probably a full episode just on that subject right there.

As always, there was a lot of other material if you have questions or want to see this stuff. I’ll be going to the AGA Operations Conference here at the end of April, first part of May. If you’re going to be there, please stop and say howdy.

I had a number of people at the API Pipeline Conference stop and say hello, people who I haven’t met before who are listeners to the podcast. I wish I could remember you all by name and call you all out and give you some recognition. Unfortunately, I don’t have that list handy.

I’ve got to say that it was really a pleasure to speak to some of the listeners and to meet some of the people. I got to meet Jason Dalton from Marathon Pipe Line in-person. It’s the first time we actually talked face to face. We had a good visit and talked about some other ideas for some other podcasts with Marathon in the future.

All in all, I thought it was an excellent conference. We, our team from EnerSys, was really busy, lots of conversations, and part of the reason I’m a little bit more disjointed and maybe I was when I did this last year is there’s just so much that occurred that it was hard to get all the notes down on paper.

Great conference. Shout-out to the API for doing a great job. That conference just in terms of its material and execution, I think, it just continues to get better. For those of you that can, I’d recommend that you get that event on your calendar for next year.

Well, that’s it for this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast. I hope you enjoyed this conversation about the API Pipeline Conference and this brief recap.

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Russel: If you have ideas, questions, or topics you’d be interested in, please let me know on the Contact Us page at pipelinerspodcast.com or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.

Transcription by CastingWords

Pipeliners Podcast © 2019