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Pipeline Safety,
Spills, & Leaks

The safety and reliability of our pipelines and supporting infrastructure is paramount to who we are as a company. In line with our ZIP Today platform, it is our goal to ensure the safe performance of all our assets, while also preventing spills and leaks, and building public trust.

Approach to Pipeline Safety

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The management approach and its components

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Evaluation of the management approach

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Significant spills

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Non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations

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Incidents of non-compliance concerning the health and safety impacts of products and services

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Number of reportable pipeline incidents, percentage significant

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Percentage of (1) natural gas and (2) hazardous liquid pipelines inspected

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Discussion of management systems used to integrate a culture of safety and emergency preparedness throughout the value chain and throughout project lifecycles

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At Equitrans, we continually safeguard our pipelines and their integrity. With our pipeline safety practices we have one goal in mind: protecting our employees, contractors, and local communities in which we operate. We construct, operate, maintain, and repair our pipelines in accordance with current U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations and industry standards for safe pipeline operations, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Gas Transmission and Distribution Piping Systems Standard and the American Petroleum Institute’s Recommended Practices 80 for Onshore Gas Gathering Lines. We adhere to federal gas transmission pipeline integrity regulations (subpart O) and regularly complete public safety assessments like pipeline assessments, excavations, and materials testing to ensure asset integrity. These supplemental assessments, while not required by the federal government, are an integral part of our safety-first culture and in 2019 we budgeted and spent approximately $2 million for related pipeline safety initiatives and $650,000 for corrosion prevention activities. Through our commitment to meeting and exceeding compliance requirements, we are able to reduce the probability of a serious pipeline incident and better protect our workers and local communities. Moreover, we have developed our own detailed internal safety procedures for pipeline design, construction, operation, and maintenance. During these lifecycle phases, we proactively integrate preventive measures to enhance the safety of our employees, contractors, and community members.

Lifecycle Phases

Design

During a pipeline’s design phase, we take every opportunity to embed safety practices. This process starts with extensively evaluating the applicable local, state, and federal regulations and then adapting the design components and procedures to meet these regulations. When designing, we also ensure the pipeline and its supporting infrastructure are consistent with industry standards and best practices for asset safety, efficiency, and reliability. The pipeline itself is not our sole focus in the design phase. It is also extremely important to optimize the pipeline’s route in order to avoid, wherever possible, sensitive environmental and cultural areas, as well as local communities.

Construction

Throughout a pipeline’s construction it is critical that we make every effort to confirm that the pipeline’s assemblage is correct and well-done the first time. To do this, we inspect all activities during construction and upon completion in order to verify the safety and integrity of the pipeline, and also to ensure proper installation procedures were utilized. One crucial aspect of this inspection process is the examination of welds to confirm their integrity once the pipeline is operational. Lastly, before a pipeline is approved and placed into service, we extensively test it to confirm its fitness for service. We test by using regulatory-accepted integrity checks prior to the introduction of gas into the pipeline, including hydrostatic pressure tests, geometric pigging tests to check for dents and ovality, and Direct Current Voltage Gradient (DCVG) surveys which evaluate the effectiveness of corrosion protection coatings.

Operations

Once a pipeline has been designed, constructed, and placed into service, our focus on safety continues through its operation. First and foremost, we continually work to preserve the integrity of the pipeline structure and its supporting assets in order to protect against any potential releases. The primary method of ensuring integrity is through continual monitoring of the pipeline to detect any shifting or movement of the pipe or earth surrounding the pipe. Our engineering team regularly monitors the rainfall that occurs across a pipeline’s footprint. If a particular area receives a rainfall amount that exceeds a pre-determined limit, the team evaluates the pipeline to identify any potential slip or to confirm that the pipe has not shifted. Another way we track pipeline movement is by placing stakes with tennis balls attached at specific intervals along a pipeline. Once these stakes are in place, we then identify their coordinates using GPS and consistently check these coordinates to see if they have moved, which might indicate the pipeline has moved as well. We have initiated the use of drones to take repeated overhead videos of the pipeline. These videos are then overlayed on one another to detect any differences, which, if identified, help us to evaluate whether there was any potential shifting or movement of the pipeline. During 2020, we plan to expand the use of drones to monitor our pipelines as they provide a convenient, precise, and, most importantly, safer alternative to on-the-ground monitoring. 

Employees at our state-of-the art Gas Control Center control, monitor, and analyze our pipelines’ natural gas flow twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The Center enables us to quickly identify and respond to any potential issues that may arise, ensuring that the issues are resolved as soon and as safely possible. We work to stay ahead of potential integrity-compromising corrosion through regular cathodic protection system maintenance. This industry accepted practice applies electrical current to the pipeline to inhibit natural corrosion on our assets. This is accomplished by installing sacrificial anodes along the pipeline route, which are designed to corrode at known rates, in lieu of the pipeline. Other corrosion prevention strategies we deploy include consistent fluid sampling to quickly identify if corrosion is occurring, as well as flow controls to limit excessive gas velocities within the pipeline, which can often contribute to erosion and corrosion of the pipe.

Maintaining pipeline rights-of-way (ROW) is another important strategy we leverage to evaluate pipeline safety. In addition to routine, on-the-ground safety inspections, it’s important to keep the ROW open and clear in order to easily conduct aerial safety patrols using helicopters and drones. When our Gas Control Center or inspections teams identify a safety or maintenance concern, we act swiftly to remediate it. Our internal operations and maintenance program teams work together to mitigate and resolve any issues in order to ensure the integrity and longevity of the asset.

Integrity Management

Staying ahead of any potential pipeline integrity issue is essential to the safe operation of our pipelines. Our Compliance, Corrosion, and Technical training departments, working in conjunction with our field operations team, are responsible for managing pipeline integrity at Equitrans. They lead our efforts by implementing strategies to meet regulatory compliance mandates and by creating risk models to identify and prioritize high consequence areas along the pipeline for integrity assessments based upon local populations, and land and building usage near the route. In 2019, the high consequence areas we inspected represented 3 percent of our total pipelines. The team also carries out more tailored evaluations including corrosion investigations, internal liquids analyses, governmental audits, internal audits, and pressure tests where needed. They also review and maintain standard operating policies and procedures, maintain pipeline construction records, and administer our Operator Qualification program and other trainings for employees and contractors.

Pipeline Security

Ensuring the safety and integrity of our pipelines also requires that we stay informed of security-related risks and act diligently to reduce these risks as well as any potential dangers. We safeguard our assets through meticulous security planning and on-site strategies including fences, building locks, electronic monitoring, and consistent surveillance.

We deploy several levels of security at our pipeline construction sites, depending on their criticality and vulnerability. For critical sites, we secure pipe storage yards and worksites by either 24/7 security guards or advanced analytic camera systems. At sites where an increased threat may exist, we employ both security guards and camera systems simultaneously. For the majority of our other pipelines, contracts require the hiring of guards to protect the project during non-work hours. Our physical security team also monitors all pipeline projects. If theft, vandalism, or other threats are encountered, a combination of roving and static guards along with varying levels of camera coverage will be employed to secure the site. For projects that encounter hostile persons or opposition during construction, we assign security teams to protect workers during the day and static guards to protect equipment during non-work hours.

Security guards also protect compression stations and various other sites during construction based upon criticality and vulnerability. After construction is completed, we secure compression stations with barbed wire fencing, access controls, and high-resolution analytical camera systems. Other sites such as interconnections and metering stations incorporate fencing, cameras, or both, depending on the perceived threat to the locations.

Evaluating Our Approach to Pipeline Safety

The safety of our pipeline assets is highly important, and we strive to uphold the effectiveness of our approach to pipeline safety. Using federal regulations as a starting point, it is our goal to measure our achievements not simply by compliance, but by focusing on risk mitigation. To achieve this goal, we use several strategies including conducting non-destructive tests (NDT) on all pipeline welds and using third-party NDT auditors on large projects. We require all welders who work on Equitrans projects to complete welding certifications that we administer internally. We conduct pressure tests to evaluate pipeline integrity and use third-party software to validate that there are no leaks. All of our inspectors conducting these tests are thoroughly vetted to ensure they meet our standards. This process starts with a pre-qualification of certifications that inspectors possess prior to their onboarding. Once on the job, inspectors take numerous computer-based trainings (CBTs) that we have developed to provide guidance on Equitrans-specific practices and procedures for pipeline inspections. For these CBTs, we require inspectors to achieve a 100 percent pass rate before they are able to begin their work. Lastly, when in the field, we regularly audit our inspectors to ensure they uphold our standards for pipeline safety.

Approach to Spills & Leaks

Unintentional Releases of Gas

Number of Releases

51

Number of Reportable Releases

2

Percentage Reportable

4%

Volume of Reportable Releases

19.9 MMCF

In the event that a pipeline spill or leak occurs, we work diligently to quickly detect its location, take action to repair it, and remediate any damages. Our Operations and Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental (HSSE) teams, along with third parties, conduct regular inspections of our pipelines to ensure their integrity and identify any potential spills and leaks. For identified areas of concern, we take immediate action to make repairs and enhancements to maintain integrity of the asset and ensure regulatory compliance. We track all spills that occur across our pipelines and facilities to identify trends and long-term items of concern that may require permanently engineered fixes. We properly dispose, track, and report all substances released in a spill or leak in accordance with state and federal regulations.

In 2019, Equitrans had two reportable releases of produced water at our Brown’s Creek station in Greene County, Pennsylvania, where 3.81 barrels, in total, were released. One of these releases had an offsite impact, but no natural resources were affected, and the impacted soil was immediately remediated. No long-term effects have been noted in follow-up examinations, nor are they expected to occur in the future. We also experienced two reportable releases of gas in 2019, which amounted to 19.9 million cubic feet, in total.

During pipeline construction, we track our contractors’ Best Management Practice (BMP) failures that result in sediment releases to water bodies. We consider BMP failures to be incidents in which erosion and sediment control structures that are intended to prevent or reduce soil erosion, or filter sediment laden water, fail to properly achieve these intents. This type of failure usually results in the escape of sediment into water above the approved limits of disturbance for the project site and/or the escape of sediment into an aquatic resource. In 2019, while we had 128 sediment releases to water, no water bodies were significantly affected by releases from Equitrans operations as a result of BMP failures.

Evaluating Our Approach to Spills & Leaks

We regularly evaluate our processes to limit spills, leaks, and releases from our operations for their effectiveness to learn from past experiences and prevent future releases. In addition, and similar to our internal safety metric, we have a controllable erosion and sedimentation metric as part of our Short-Term Incentive Program (STIP), which aligns employee interests with those of our shareholders and the strategic objectives of our company. We track all spills, leaks, and releases at each of our stations along our pipelines, and our Operations team reviews them quarterly and annually to determine if there are any patterns. This process involves a proactive and regimented aerial and foot patrol program following Department of Transportation guidelines. Our program uses our Pipeline Safety Event tracker to gather the feedback and metrics we need to take prescribed corrective actions to minimize and prevent future occurrences.

Approach to Environmental Compliance

Non-Compliance Fines and Sanctions

Total Monetary Value of Significant Fines (Equitrans)

$2,849,101

Total Monetary Value of Significant Fines (Mountain Valley Pipeline)

$2,415,972

Cases Brought through Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

39

Total Monetary Losses from Legal Proceedings associated with Federal Pipeline and Storage Regulations (Equitrans)

Zero losses

At Equitrans, we make every effort to meet or exceed all applicable pipeline compliance regulations. Our commitment to compliance not only makes financial sense but also serves as a key tenant of our corporate culture. We strive to be transparent across our operations when interacting with local, state, and federal authorities. We track and evaluate all emerging and changing regulations and permit requirements that may impact Equitrans and our operations. We also actively submit comments based on our evaluations of proposed regulations as a company or through the industry trade groups of which we are a member. Our facilities are audited and inspected both internally and by a third-party during construction and operations to verify compliance is maintained.

Evaluating Our Approach to Environmental Compliance

To meet and exceed all applicable regulations, we work tirelessly to ensure our environmental compliance teams correctly identify regulations and develop effective strategies to achieve compliance. We enter and track applicable regulations and operating permits in our Maximo asset management system and our Enviance software system, through which we manage the monitoring and inspection of our pipelines to ensure permit compliance. Our Enviance system is also utilized to calculate air emissions. For sediment releases to water bodies, we track and classify BMP failures as either controllable or uncontrollable to determine if failures were preventable. For failures that were controllable, we work with our construction contractors to address these incidents through in-person or virtual meetings where we develop a path to resolution. We conduct regular audits of these contractors to ensure their performance improves.

Incidents of Non-Compliance
Resulting in a Fine or Penalty
0
Incidents of Non-Compliance
Resulting in a Warning
0
Incidents of Non-Compliance
with Voluntary Codes
0

Approach to Public Safety Awareness

The safety of the public and the local communities near our operations is of highest importance to Equitrans. Our goal is to operate our assets safely and responsibly while ensuring the public understands our operating practices and is aware of critical pipeline safety facts.

We frequently communicate with the local communities near our operations to raise awareness of our activities, convey key safety information, and address any questions or concerns. One way we do this is through annually mailing a safety brochure to residents and businesses located near our pipelines to keep them informed of our operations. We also engage with local first responders, public works employees, elected officials, school districts, and other pertinent community members. This engagement, which may occur in-person or virtually, involves apprising them of our operational processes, providing pipeline-related educational resources, listening to their thoughts and feedback, and building relationships through group meetings, personal contact, and targeted distribution of print materials. A few examples of the topics we address include:

  • Activities occurring along relevant pipeline routes or at pipeline compressor station facilities
  • The types of equipment being used at a particular site
  • The preventative measures we take to reduce potential hazards and ensure pipeline integrity
  • How to avoid right-of-way encroachments
  • How to identify pipeline leaks and the appropriate response to a leak
  • Equitrans’ emergency and crisis response plan
  • The appropriate community response for various incident scenarios

Our engagement helps to raise awareness of the presence of pipelines in local communities and increases the understanding of the focus we put on public safety and, more generally, the role of pipelines in transporting energy. It is our goal to convey to the public that while pipeline accidents are possible, pipelines are a safe mode of transportation. We undertake strong measures to prevent pipeline accidents, while working to anticipate and plan for the management of accidents should they occur. We believe that a well-informed public along pipeline routes enhances the pipeline safety measures we employ and contributes to reducing the likelihood and potential impact of pipeline emergencies or releases due to third-party damage and right-of-way encroachments.

One of the greatest challenges to safe pipeline operations is potential accidental damage caused by excavation, directional drilling, construction, farming activities, or homeowner activities. To ensure the safety of the public, we urge stakeholders utilize the “Call 811 Before You Dig” program that is available across the United States. By calling 811 before digging, everyone can play an important part in protecting public safety by ensuring that a pipeline is not unintentionally damaged. The national program directly connects a caller to their state’s One Call Center where they can then report their planned digging project. The One Call Center will then communicate this information to all local underground utilities that mark the locations of their pipelines on the property where the project is taking place. In our home state of Pennsylvania, we are directly involved in the Pennsylvania 811 Safety Day conferences as a sponsor. The annual Safety Day provides safety education to the excavation and utility industries through hands-on demonstrations with tools and techniques, as well as discussions on new safety theories.

Evaluating Our Approach to Public Safety Awareness

We regularly evaluate the effectiveness of our approach to public safety awareness in order to verify that the local communities near our pipelines are aware of the proximity of natural gas lines in their neighborhood and to provide general safety information regarding natural gas pipeline operations. To do this we utilize two evaluation methods, a third-party survey of local community members and local community group meetings hosted by third-parties.

Our telephone and postal surveys use a three-step approach to complete the evaluation process. The first step is the set-up, in which we design the survey with the intent to measure the scope of our public outreach and its effectiveness in conveying desired content, the clarity of the outreach content, and the content’s effect on desired safety awareness and behaviors. Next is the execution phase of the process when the surveys are conducted for selected local community members. During the execution phase, we target completing 400 surveys per identified audience to ensure we obtain a statistically significant sample. Lastly, during the reporting and analysis phase, we compile the survey results and complete a final report. This final report includes results for each survey question and the three intended measures of the survey outlined in the first step.

Our evaluation process for local community group meetings consists of two approaches. We first consider the people and organizations that attended each meeting to measure the scope of our public outreach and the effectiveness of the content that we conveyed. Secondly, each person or organization that attends a meeting receives a survey card which includes questions regarding their knowledge of pipelines, their thoughts on the effectiveness of the meeting program, and the usefulness of the meeting program to their daily activities. Based upon the responses to these questions, we can measure the clarity of the outreach content, and the content’s effect on desired safety awareness and behaviors.

Leveraging the results of these evaluation methods enables us to make general changes to our public safety awareness programs, make changes to address specific issues, or continue with the programs as they currently exist, unless a significant decrease in effectiveness is apparent from the evaluation methods.

Portrait of Diana M. Charletta, Equitrans President and Chief Operating Officer

Our ESG management practices are intrinsic and deliver value that goes beyond financial drivers. Today and in the future, trust and transparency are central to our approach.

Diana M. Charletta, President and Chief Operating Officer

Learn More
Image of our Field Safety Technician Group at our MOJO Compressor Station
Highlight Story
Field Safety
Technician Program

No one knows Equitrans’ assets and procedures better than our employees that work in the field every day. To leverage their knowledge, we recently developed a voluntary program called the Field Safety Technician Group or FST Group. The FST Group is composed of field employees, known as Field Safety Technicians (FSTs), who act as liaisons between field employees and management to coordinate equipment upgrades, enhance safety, and bolster our safety culture. With the FST Group, our aim is to create a work environment where employees feel comfortable making safety suggestions, and requesting equipment upgrades and additional trainings. Our FSTs interview field employees on a quarterly basis, asking what can be done to improve safety at their sites and what trainings the employees feel would be beneficial. We also hold quarterly FST Group meetings where all FSTs come prepared to report on the information Sthey have gathered throughout the quarter. Our teams develop action items based upon the FST interviews with the goal to complete the items prior to the next quarterly meeting. When possible, we scale these items across the company.

One great example of this process occurred at our MOJO Compressor Station. During a quarterly FST interview, an employee suggested to an FST that lighting should be added to the site. The site at that time had no active lighting and the employee had to occasionally use his vehicle’s head lights to illuminate the area. At the following quarterly FST meeting, the FST Group agreed to purchase solar-powered lights for the compressor station, which were subsequently installed.

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