Inspectioneering Journal

Pipeline Failure – Safeguards Are so Important to Hydrocarbon Transport Lines

By Neil Ferguson, Joint Integrity Leader at Hydratight. This article appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Joint integrity management remains at the top of many operators’ priority list.  The discipline considers risk and drives safety to ensure we learn necessary lessons from past catastrophic failures, such as the Piper Alpha explosion in 1988, where leaking gas condensate ignited and killed 167 of the 229 people on board the offshore rig.  Maintenance and record keeping practices have improved in the years since the incident, largely in part to the 106 recommendations made in The Cullen Report following the oil platform disaster. The international oil and gas industry is known for self-regulation.  This extends to the high risk area of pipe joint integrity.  Those in the industry know the importance of the bolted joint on hydrocarbon transport lines.  Ensuring these connections stay secure and leak-free requires closely managing the people, processes, and equipment.    

Preventing Leaks by the Thousands

A typical offshore platform has upwards of 10,000 bolted joints; all coming with the potential for failure.  A refinery can have in excess of 100,000.  Bolted joints have historically had significantly fewer mandated processes and procedures attached to them than welded joints, despite ultimately serving the same purpose – preserve process containment.   

Now, after years of relatively loose regulations applied to the assembly, maintenance, and repair of bolted joints when compared to their welded counterparts, the industry follows guidelines it helped develop with American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).  ASME-PCC-1 was greatly improved in 2013 and even more so with the recent OSHA field memo indicating that ASME PCC-1 will now be considered Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP). 


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