Natural Gas Pipelines: Safe, Sound and Underground
Facts About the Natural Gas Delivery System in the United States
The safety record of natural gas utilities is outstanding – and it keeps getting better.
- Between 1986 and 2004, the amount of natural gas traveling through distribution pipelines increased by one-third.
- And more than 650,000 miles of pipeline were added to the system.
- Yet the number of reportable incidents on distribution pipelines decreased by 28 percent.
- Natural gas utilities safely and reliably deliver natural gas to 69 million customers per year.
- Natural gas pipelines have an outstanding safety record, especially when compared to other modes of transportation: According to the National Transportation Safety Board, in 2002, more than 42,000 transportation fatalities occurred on the highways, while aviation, boating and railroads accounted for another 2,000 fatalities. In contrast, there were only 12 fatalities associated with natural gas pipelines.
The natural gas delivery system is founded on sound fundamentals.
- Natural gas provides one-fourth of the nation’s energy, serving the needs of 69 million customer meters.
- 2.2 million miles of pipeline comprise the nation’s natural gas delivery system:
- 1.9 million miles of distribution pipe and main,
- along with 300,000 miles of transmission pipe.
- The nation’s most critical buildings all rely on natural gas: the Pentagon, the White House and the Capitol building all use natural gas as a heating source.
- Many natural gas utilities have been delivering natural gas for decades, some for more than a century. They are time-tested.
- Most residential pipe installed in the last 30 years has been plastic pipe, chosen for its flexibility and resistance to corrosion.
- Simple mechanical valves control the flow of gas through the system. These valves can be manually opened and closed and, in some cases, operated by remote control as well.
Distribution pipelines operate under rigorous federal safety laws.
- Together, gas utility and pipeline companies spend close to $7 billion per year to ensure that natural gas is delivered safely and reliably.
- All natural gas in distribution systems must be odorized so a leak can be readily detected without special instruments.
- Federal pipeline safety code requires that distribution systems comply with tough requirements for design, construction, testing, inspection, operations and maintenance from the point of connection to the point of transmission, up to and including the customer’s meter.
- Natural gas distribution pipes typically are regulated by both federal and state agencies. Distribution systems regulated by a state agency are required by law to comply with standards that are at least as stringent or more stringent than those set forth in federal minimum safety mandates.