LIBERTY, December 15, 2015 – America's pipeline network is used every day to transport products such as natural gas to homes, businesses and industrial facilities. According to the National Transportation Safety Board statistics, pipelines are the safest and most economical method of transporting products. CenterPoint Energy is committed to the safe and reliable operation of its pipelines in your community. CenterPoint Energy monitors the operations of our pipelines from our control centers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our pipelines are designed, installed, tested, operated and maintained to the highest safety standards in accordance with all applicable Federal and State requirements. CenterPoint Energy maintains its safety record by routine inspections, corrosion protection, maintenance and testing programs, employee training and public education. Public education includes educational outreach with excavating contractors, emergency response officials, appropriate public officials and the affected public. CenterPoint Energy has developed and implemented integrity management programs for both distribution and transmission facilities to achieve or exceed requirements of pipeline regulations. The integrity management programs build on an existing foundation of pipeline safety regulations covering design, construction, testing, operation and maintenance, and include components such as system knowledge, threat identification, risk analysis and mitigation, evaluations, repair and improvements. In addition, CenterPoint Energy evaluates population densities along our transmission pipelines to determine High Consequence Areas. More details on CenterPoint Energy's integrity management programs can be found at CenterPointEnergy.com.
YOU PROBABLY LIVE OR WORK NEAR A PIPELINE
How can you tell where a pipeline is located?
Since most pipelines are buried underground, line markers are used to indicate their approximate location along the route. The markers can be found where a pipeline intersects a street, highway or railway. The markers display the material transported in the line, the name of the pipeline operator, and a telephone number where the operator can be reached in the event of an emergency. Local distribution pipelines are not typically identified with pipeline markers. A call to 811 will help identify the location of these pipelines.
Are pipeline markers always placed on top of the pipeline?
Markers indicate the general location of a pipeline. They cannot be relied upon to indicate the exact position of the pipeline. Also, the pipeline may not follow a straight course between markers. While markers are helpful in locating pipelines, they are limited in the information they provide. They provide no information, for example, on depth or number of pipelines in the vicinity.
• Pipelines carry both gaseous and liquid materials under high pressure.
• Many liquids form gaseous vapor clouds when released into the air.
• Many pipelines contain colorless and odorless products.
• Some gases are lighter than air and will rise.
• Other heavier-than-air gases and liquids will stay near the ground and collect in low spots.
• All petroleum gases and liquids are flammable.
• Any pipeline leak can be potentially dangerous.
• Is lighter than air
• Is not toxic
• Is odorless in its natural state
• Smells like rotten eggs when odorized
• Should not be confused with propane which is heavier than air
• Explosive or burning range is 5 percent to 15 percent gas to air mixture
• View Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for more information
Pipeline access and security
Pipeline right-of-ways must be kept free from structures and other obstructions to provide access to the pipeline for maintenance and in the event of an emergency. If a pipeline crosses your property, please do not plant trees or high shrubs on the rights-of-way. Do not dig, build, store or place anything near the rights-of-way without first having the pipeline marked and the rights-of-way staked. If you witness suspicious activity on a pipeline right-of-way, please report it to the authorities, or call your local CenterPoint Energy emergency number.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE A PIPELINE EMERGENCY
• Look - Persistent bubbling in standing water or discolored vegetation are signs of a possible leak around the pipeline area. A pool of liquid on the ground; a dense white cloud or fog; a slight mist of ice; or unexplained frozen ground near the pipeline are also signs of a possible leak.
• Listen - Listen for any unusual noise like a hissing or roaring sound.
• Smell - Notice any strange or unusual odor (the products will have a petroleum odor or smell like rotten eggs).
A pipeline emergency could be:
• A damaged pipeline
• Fire or explosion near or directly involving a pipeline or pipeline facility
• A natural disaster affecting the pipeline, such as earthquake, flood or soil erosion
• A leaking pipeline
ACTIONS TO TAKE IF YOU SUSPECT A PIPELINE LEAK
Your first concern should be for personal safety and the safety of those around you:
• IMMEDIATELY LEAVE THE AREA on foot, in an upwind direction away from the leak or vapor cloud and maintain a safe distance. Warn others to stay away from the leak. Abandon any equipment being used in or near the area.
• CALL 911, SEEK THE AID OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES.
• NOTIFY CENTERPOINT ENERGY IMMEDIATELY. Call your local CenterPoint Energy emergency number and give your name, the location and a description of the leak.
• DO NOT create any sparks or heat sources which could ignite escaping gas or liquids.
• DO NOT start a car, turn on or off any switches or light a match or cigarette.
• DO NOT attempt to operate any pipeline valves.
• DO NOT use a cell phone while near the suspected emergency area.
• DO NOT drive into or near a leak or vapor cloud.
• DO NOT go into a leak or vapor cloud to turn off equipment.
IF YOU ARE AN EMERGENCY RESPONDER OR PUBLIC OFFICIAL
Take steps to safeguard the public in the event of a pipeline emergency. The following suggestions are offered as a guide:
• Secure the area around the leak to a safe distance. This could include the evacuation of people from homes, businesses, schools and other locations, as well as the erection of barricades and similar precautions to control access to the emergency site.
• Contact the pipeline company as quickly as possible. Pipeline marker signs show the pipeline company's name, emergency telephone number and pipeline contents.
• If the pipeline leak is not burning, take steps to prevent ignition. This includes prohibiting smoking, rerouting traffic and shutting off the electricity.
• If the pipeline is burning, try to prevent the spread of fire but do not attempt to extinguish it. If the fire is extinguished, gas or vapor will collect and could explode when reignited by secondary fires.
CenterPoint Energy's actions during an emergency
CenterPoint Energy personnel are trained to work within the Unified Incident Command System. Our qualified personnel are trained in emergency response activities and regularly receive refresher training reflecting various types of response levels and emergency scenarios. We will immediately dispatch personnel to the site to help handle the emergency and provide information to public safety officials to aid in their response. We will also take the necessary operating actions to minimize the impact of the emergency. Public safety personnel and other unauthorized personnel should not attempt to operate any of the valves on the pipeline. Improper operation of the pipeline valves could make the situation worse and cause other accidents to happen. To view and download maps of transmission pipelines in your county, see the National Pipeline Mapping System website www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov, an online mapping program managed by the federal government.
CALL BEFORE YOU DIG. IT'S THE LAW.
If your company does excavation work or if you are a homeowner or farmer who occasionally digs on your property, we need your help in preventing pipeline emergencies. Records show that damage from excavation-related activities, particularly from equipment digging into pipelines, is the leading cause of pipeline accidents. Without proper coordination, excavation activities in the vicinity of underground pipelines can result in very dangerous situations.
For your safety, state law requires you to call 811, the Call Before You Dig number, or your local One Call Center at least 48 hours (two working days) before you dig-drill-blast. Taking the time to call before you dig protects your safety by preventing serious accidents and injuries. It also helps prevent disruption of services and possible delay of your project.
What to do if you are digging and disturb a pipeline
Even if you cause what seems to be only minor damage to the pipeline, notify the pipeline company immediately. A gouge, scrape, dent or crease to the pipe or coating may cause a future break or leak. It is imperative that the pipeline company inspect and repair damage to the line. Many states have laws requiring damages to be reported to the facility owner and/or the One-Call Center by dialing 811. Do not attempt to make the repairs to the line yourself. If a line is ruptured or leaking, call 911.