Protecting Pipelines

The pipeline industry uses a wide range of tools and technologies to maintain safe operations. Operators visually inspect aboveground pipes and related equipment for damage. Pipeline personnel walk, drive and fly over pipeline right-of-ways inspecting them for erosion damage, unauthorized activities that might endanger the pipeline or unusual changes in vegetation that might indicate a leak.

Pipeline control center personnel monitor pipeline operation 24 hours a day, every day. Operators also use in-line inspection tools known as “smart pigs”, hydrostatic testing, electromagnetic testing and other techniques to find defects and check the integrity of their systems.

Pipeline operators also rely on their partnerships with local government and emergency officials to protect pipelines against damage or attack.

Here’s how you can help protect the pipelines in your community:

1.  Know where pipelines in your community are located, what they transport and how to contact the operator if there is an emergency

Visit the National Pipeline Mapping System to view maps of transmission pipelines in your community and emergency contact information for operators.  Contact local gathering and distribution operators directly regarding the location of their lines and emergency response numbers.  You can also use  the permanent pipeline markers to identify the general location of transmission and gathering lines and  obtain emergency contact numbers for operators.

2.  Report pipeline damage or dangerous activity near the pipeline to the pipeline operator

Call the pipeline operator if you see unauthorized excavation or other activities that could endanger a pipeline or aboveground pipeline facility.  Call the operator if you notice that the pipeline is exposed due to erosion or excavation near the line.  The operator’s emergency contact number will be listed on a pipeline marker near the line.

3.  Follow best practices for safe excavation near pipelines and enforce state One-Call laws

Excavation activity is the most common cause of pipeline damage.  If you will be excavating near a pipeline, call 811 or your local One-Call center, even if you are exempt from your state’s One-Call laws, to have pipelines located and marked before starting your project.  Refer to the “Know What’s Below” section on this page for more information about the One-Call process.

For more information about safe excavation near pipelines, refer to the following pages:

Know What’s Below.  Call 811 Before You dig.

Damage to pipelines from excavation activity is the most common cause of pipeline emergencies.  Even if you are exempt from your state’s One-Call law, it is a safety best practice to always contact your local One-Call center, or call 811, to have pipelines and other underground utility lines marked prior to starting an excavation project.  This applies not only to municipal work crews, but also contractors hired to assist with excavation related to highway maintenance, sewage or other government-manage projects.

In most states, One-Call is a free service.  When you call 811, a local One-Call representative will coordinate with pipeline operators in your area to mark the location of their lines with yellow flags, stakes or temporary paint.   View a chart that explains marker flag colors and the lines that they represent.

You are responsible for providing access to the area where you will be digging.   Make sure that gates are unlocked or that someone is available to provide access for lining locating personnel.  Once lines are located, respect the marks and dig with care.  Contact One-Call  or the pipeline operator if you have questions about the marks or appropriate digging procedures and equipment.

Pipelines that are owned and maintained by the resident or building owner rather than a pipeline operator are typically not located through the One-Call process.  These “customer-owned” lines often include pipelines and piping that run from the meter or other connection points to a customer’s gas appliances or manufacturing equipment.  Customer-owned lines are rarely maintained or located by the pipeline company.  If you are planning to excavate near customer-owned lines, contact a local professional who is qualified to verify the location of these lines before digging.

Refer to “Locating Pipelines Before Digging” and “Tips for Safe Digging Near Pipelines” for additional information.