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Audit Reports

Date

Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Operators' Integrity Management Programs Need More Rigorous PHMSA Oversight

Project ID
AV2012140
File Attachment

On June 18, 2012, we issued a report on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) oversight of hazardous liquid pipeline operators’ integrity management (IM) programs.  These programs include plans, processes, and procedures aimed at reducing the likelihood and severity of pipeline accidents in High Consequence Areas.  PHMSA initiated an inspection program to oversee operators’ implementation of their IM programs in 2002.  Since then, the program has accomplished much, but still faces challenges that impact the Agency’s oversight of operators’ IM programs.  These challenges include managing a growing backlog of inspections, identifying IM weaknesses through field inspections and onsite accident investigations, and transitioning to a new risk-based inspection program.  In addition, PHMSA’s oversight of non-line pipe facilities (such as valves, pump and meter stations, and storage tanks) is limited by less rigorous IM requirements, despite recent technological advances that would allow more rigorous oversight of these facilities.  Finally, although PHMSA has established a corrective action plan to address long-standing data management deficiencies, the Agency has not yet resolved key deficiencies or established meaningful analysis capabilities to improve its oversight.  We made nine recommendations to improve PHMSA’s oversight; PHMSA concurred with seven and partially concurred with two.  However, PHMSA’s responses did not fully meet the intent of six of our recommendations, and we are requesting additional information for these recommendations.

Recommendations

Closed on
No. 1 to PHMSA
Categorize IM requirements as a high priority within the Agency's integrated inspection and enforcement program.
Closed on
No. 2 to PHMSA
Establish target dates for resolving remaining data system and risk analysis issues affecting PHMSA's inspection program.
Closed on
No. 3 to PHMSA
Implement a pilot program to determine whether the IM Field Implementation Directive provides sufficient onsite field testing of operator's IM program implementation.
Closed on
No. 4 to PHMSA
Expand accident investigation criteria to conduct more Agency onsite reviews of significant accidents potentially involving IM-detectable causes.
Closed on
No. 5 to PHMSA
Update IM requirements to mandate baseline and recurring assessments for non-line pipe facilities, given the availability of new assessment technologies and methodologies.
Closed on
No. 6 to PHMSA
Establish additional quality assurance procedures to verify the accuracy of operator annual reports and accident data.
Closed on
No. 7 to PHMSA
Develop and implement a program of systematic analyses to better assess pipeline risks, identify safety trends, and focus oversight activities.
Closed on
No. 8 to PHMSA
Create a database of pipeline physical characteristics, accidents, and inspectionsâ€"including geographic locationâ€"of individual pipeline units in order to identify and monitor at-risk pipelines.
Closed on
No. 9 to PHMSA
Develop and implement specific performance measures to assess the impact of the IM program and its individual components on pipeline safety.