Williams operates the Transco pipeline, the nation’s largest interstate pipeline. It is part of a vast pipeline transmission system sometimes referred to as the “interstate highway” for natural gas. consisting of more than 300,000 miles of high-strength steel pipe moving large amounts of natural gas from producing regions to market. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, natural gas pipelines are the safest and most cost-efficient mode of energy transportation today – surpassing highway, railroad, airborne or waterborne transport.
Exceeding Industry & Regulatory Safety Standards
At Williams, pipeline safety is our top priority. Planners of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise project have committed to adopt design features and operating practices that will exceed already stringent industry and regulatory safety standards. Some of the measures would include:
- Remote controlled shut off valves monitored 24 hours a day
- More frequent inspections than are required by law, including regular inspections with highly sophisticated internal inspection tools
- X-raying 100% of pipeline welds
- In certain areas, installing thicker steel pipe than is required by regulations
Safety Is No Accident
Interstate pipelines like Transco are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline Safety, which imposes a broad range of construction and operations standards. Williams has its own high standards for pipeline design, material specifications, construction, maintenance and testing. These standards, which must be met before a pipeline can be placed into service, include:
- Where pipe is fabricated, pipeline representatives carefully inspect the pipe to ensure that quality meets or exceeds both federal and industry-wide standards.
- Protective coatings and other techniques are used to help prevent corrosion of the pipeline and its facilities.
- During construction, pipeline representatives carefully inspect the fabrication and construction of the pipeline. Welds linking the joints of the pipeline are checked to test their integrity.
- Once the pipeline is in the ground but before it is placed into service, it is pressure-tested to verify that it can withstand high pressure.
- Once the pipeline is placed in the ground, the operator installs a system called cathodic protection, which, along with the pipe’s protective coating, is designed to prevent corrosion.
- In accordance with federal law, aboveground pipeline markers are used to alert the public to the presence of one or more pipelines within an easement. These markers, which contain the name of the pipeline operator and emergency contact information, are usually located near road, rail, fence, water crossings and curbs.
- To help protect against third-party damage, regular inspections by motor vehicles and low-flying patrol aircraft keep a watchful eye on the pipeline routes and adjacent areas.
- Pipelines undergo periodic maintenance inspections, including leak surveys and valve and safety device inspections. An internal computerized inspection device known as a “smart pig” is also utilized to periodically examine the pipe’s condition.
- Local pipeline representatives meet with local emergency response officials, excavation contractors, landowners and local community leaders to educate them about pipeline operation and emergency response procedures.
- Safety information regarding our operations is distributed annually to landowners, residents and businesses located near our facilities.
- The Transco pipeline is continuously monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through its Gas Control center.
- The pipeline will become part of the nationwide One-Call system.
One of the greatest single challenges to safe pipeline operations is the accidental damage caused by third parties. Local One-Call centers provide a free service to anyone planning excavation, construction or blasting activities. After a center receives a call, underground utilities in the area of the planned work are notified. Representatives from each utility company visit the proposed work site and mark the location of their facilities to reduce the risk of damage. To contact the One-Call center nearest you, dial 811.