Fiber Optic Sensing Association urges U.S. government action on pipeline safety

FOSA urges Congress and the Trump Administration to develop standards for pipeline leak detection technology.

The Fiber Optic Sensing Association (FOSA; Washington, DC), the trade association dedicated to fiber-optic sensing, has urged Congress and the Trump Administration to move forward with development of standards for pipeline leak detection technology and other actions designed to enhance pipeline safety in the United States.

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In comments submitted to a Congressional hearing in oversight of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), FOSA director Mark Uncapher emphasized the importance of performance-based leak detection standards to set expectations and provide clarity to the pipeline industry and related technology companies.

The hearing was held by of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, led by Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Michael Capuano (D-MA). Witnesses included PHMSA Administrator Howard 'Skip' Elliott, Andrew J. Black of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, Robin Rorick of the American Petroleum Institute, Chad Zamarin of The Williams Cos., Inc. on behalf of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, and Carl Weimer of the Pipeline Safety Trust.

"There was remarkable bipartisan agreement at the hearing on the need for regulatory action to fulfill Congressional mandates from the 2011 and 2016 pipeline safety legislation," Uncapher said. "These mandates are all about ensuring the safety of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure, and there was no daylight between Republicans and Democrats on that topic."

Fiber-optic sensing works by using optical fiber as a sensing medium to detect minute changes in strain, acoustics, and temperature. In the pipeline industry, fiber-optic sensing is used to continuously monitor for leaks, vehicle movement, foot traffic, digging activity, seismic activity, structural integrity, and other hazardous conditions.

In developing nations, many pipeline operators now routinely include fiber-optic sensing in new construction to provide warnings of hot tapping, digging and seismic conditions. Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Kazahkstan, Mexico, Tunisia and Turkey are all home to pipelines hundreds of miles in length that are protected by fiber-optic sensing.

Uncapher also noted major announcements by SoCalGas and Husky Midstream to install fiber-optic sensing on new pipeline deployments and mentioned that other North American operators are conducting installations and trials of fiber optic sensing technology.

FOSA, a non-profit organization, provides information to pipeline operators on the benefits and use of fiber-optic sensing technology. On March 14, 2018, FOSA released an 11-page primer entitled, "Installation Considerations for Pipelines," designed to assist pipeline operators, construction companies, technology integrators and others in deploying DFOS systems in the optimal manner. The primer is available on the FOSA website under Resources, Installation Considerations.

FOSA also has created a webinar entitled "Advancing Pipeline Safety with Fiber Optic Sensing" that provides additional insights gained from DFOS pipeline deployments around the world. The webinar is available on the FOSA website under Resources, Webinars.

"We believe modern sensing technology can help meet the important goal of pipeline safety which is shared by Congress, PHMSA, the pipeline industry and the public," Uncapher said. "We look forward to working with all interested parties to help achieve that goal."

SOURCE: Fiber Optic Sensing Association; https://www.fiberopticsensing.org/blog/fiber-optic-sensing-association-urges-government-action-on-pipeline-safety-issues

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