Potential Hazards

Pipeline leaks can be dangerous.  Damage to pipelines, most often caused by excavation, occurs too frequently to low pressure distribution lines, but is rare along gathering and transmission lines.  A damaged pipeline may release flammable products into the soil or the air that can be harmful to people and the environment.  The following are potential hazards associated with a pipeline leak or rupture:

  • Oxygen can be displaced
  • Escaping gasses or liquids can ignite and burn including vapor clouds
  • Water supplies can become contaminated
  • Serious skin irritations are possible

If you are responding to a potential leak indoors or in a confined space, be aware of the following:

  • Asphyxiation is a concern when natural gas is leaking in a confined space since natural gas can displace oxygen
  • Heat, sparks or flames can ignite escaping gasses or liquids
  • Escaping gases can form explosive mixtures with air
  • Vapors from liquefied gas are heavier than air and spread along ground
  • Natural gas/methane is lighter than air and will rise

For more information about hazards associated with specific products, refer to the Emergency Response Guide published by the Pipeline & Hazardous Material Administration, the Pipeline Association for Public Awareness’s characteristic and hazards chart or Material Data Safety Sheets provided by pipeline operators in your community.