Flowline Contamination

Topic: Oil & Gas
Date: February 17, 2020

Mark Wendell, Assistant Vice President, Underwriting

Four Proactive Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Operation

When it comes to reducing the risk of flowline contamination from production operations, it all boils down to one thing: preventative maintenance.

A proactive approach is the most effective way to mitigate the risk of this type of pollution. The impact of flowline contamination is not only damaging to an oil and gas company’s reputation – but it also has the potential to harm the environment where it occurs and have long-lasting effects on the local community. 

Because of this, it’s critical to have a clearly outlined preventative maintenance program in place for your operations – especially the well sites and flowlines. This will greatly increase the chances of catching leaks before they become so damaging that they require remediation to the land.  

Understanding the Risk

With most Oil and Gas production, saltwater comes up with the produced fluids and can contain fracking chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactive material. 

Although most states have strict requirements for disposing the saltwater, there are many ways it can leak, including flowline/ pipeline leakages, lightning strikes production equipment and tank leaks, maintenance accidents, or discharges by truckers at production and saltwater disposal sites. Often, well and pipeline construction poses the greatest risk, with poor construction or faulty and outdated piping connections.

When a leakage occurs, the polluting fluid can have detrimental effects to the land, leaving “dead zones” that make it impossible to farm the land or sustain an agriculture operation. When that occurs, it’s up to the lease operators to remediate the land, an often-times lengthy and expensive process.

Rather than reacting to spills when they occur, the best thing for oil and gas operators to do is to implement a strong culture of proactive risk management. Here are some tips:

Preventative Maintenance

First and foremost, create a proactive maintenance plan that implements periodic inspections of lease equipment, tanks and the flowlines. Simply walking the flowlines on a regular basis can greatly reduce the severity risk of pollution.

Many times, leaks are clearly visible due to the discolored patches on the ground, allowing you to act immediately rather than responding to the pollution after it has occurred.

Your maintenance program should also include regular visual inspections of the tank battery sites. Keep an eye open for rusty spots that have the potential to turn into holes.

Pipe Replacement Program

Develop a program to proactively check and replace aging pipelines. The older your infrastructure is, the more important it is for you to update pipes, valves and other components.  

When new infrastructure is being installed, make sure there are appropriate field oversight and documentation throughout the installation process. Also, consider conducting inspections throughout the process to help ensure that infrastructure/equipment is being installed properly.

Lightning Protection

Tank batteries and equipment at lease sites can be particularly susceptible to lightning strikes. To help mitigate this risk, consider installing lightning protection and maintaining a secondary containment around the tanks for an added layer of defense. Many states have statutory containment guidelines.  At a minimum, the containment should hold 110% of the volume of the largest tank.  That way, if a spill does occur, it is limited to the inside of the containment area, making it easier to clean up.

Keep Records

Develop a record-keeping system for your maintenance program that tracks when you’ve inspected your sites and flowlines. This will assist in potential legal defense of a claim as to what maintenance has occurred and reference your proactive efforts. We also recommend you document your policies and procedures for this reason.

If you have questions about establishing preventative maintenance processes to help prevent pollution, use our agent locator and find an agent near you. We regularly work with customers to visit their sites, review their existing plans and make recommendations for improvements.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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