In response to a recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the American Petroleum Institute (API) has developed American National Standards Institute/API Recommended Practice 1173, Pipeline Safety Management Systems for the pipeline industry. The API action exceeded the Safety Board’s recommendation to facilitate the development of a safety management system standard specific to the pipeline industry. In addition, the API, which represents commercial concerns throughout the oil and natural gas industry, addressed safety culture and other safety-related issues in the new recommended practice.

The NTSB issued the recommendation as a result of its investigation of the July 25, 2010, rupture of a 30-inch diameter pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge Incorporated, which released more than 840,000 gallons of crude oil into nearby wetlands and a creek that flowed into the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Mich. Unaware that the pipeline had ruptured, Enbridge employees continued pumping oil into the ruptured pipeline for 17 hours until a local utility worker discovered the oil and contacted the company.

The rupture was caused by fatigue cracks that grew and coalesced from crack and corrosion defects under the disbonded polyethylene tape coating. Contributing to the accident were weak regulations for assessing and repairing crack indications, as well as ineffective oversight of pipeline integrity management programs, weak pipeline control center procedures, and a low level of public awareness.

To address this recommendation, the API formed a multi-stakeholder group including oil and gas pipeline operator personnel and trade association staff, other federal and state agency personnel, and safety experts representing the public. The group met monthly, surveyed the public and created an important framework for the pipeline industry's goal of continuous safety improvement. The API recommended practice establishes a pipeline safety management systems (PSMS) framework for organizations that operate hazardous liquids and gas pipelines jurisdictional to the US Department of Transportation.

“Improving safety is a collaborative effort,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “API’s broad and inclusive approach to addressing our safety recommendation shows their commitment to increasing safety in the pipeline industry.”

Hart thanked the API and all the participants who assisted in developing the new recommended practice. “We call upon the industry for a widespread adoption of these recommended practices, from the largest international pipeline operating companies to the smallest municipalities, to ensure continuous improvement and safety in pipeline operations” Hart said.

As a result of the accident investigation, the NTSB issued 19 safety recommendations to seven entities. Action has been successfully completed on nine recommendations, including the API recommendation. Work is progressing on the remaining ten recommendations.

To review the Safety Board’s investigation of this accident including the final report, click on the following link: