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Reliable Risk Assessment for Oil & Gas Pipelines

How do you prioritize mitigation efforts for pipeline integrity? Researchers at Battelle are applying sophisticated modeling methods to help companies quantify risks to oil and gas pipelines and develop risk profiles for critical infrastructure. 

There are 2.6 million miles of liquid petroleum and gas transmission pipelines in the United States alone, delivering trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each year. While the vast majority of pipelines will operate safely for many years, there are a number of risks that can threaten pipeline integrity, potentially leading to accidental releases, fires and explosions. Corrosion, construction accidents, material defects and operator errors can cause dangerous incidents that put both people and property at risk. 

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), there were 6,335 reported pipeline incidents between 2005 and 2014, resulting in more than $5 billion in total damages and 152 fatalities. An average of 15 people are killed and 62 are injured in pipeline accidents in the U.S. each year.  

In order to protect workers and the public and minimize the costs of pipeline incidents, companies need to have a clear understanding of the unique risk profile for each section of their operations. As infrastructure ages and growing communities encroach on transmission pipelines, it’s more important than ever for operators to understand the risks so that they can make effective asset management decisions. 

Battelle provides safety and risk assessment services for oil and gas companies and pipeline operators. The research team brings together deep expertise in materials science and engineering with cutting-edge statistical and computer modeling methods. 


There are several steps to the risk analysis process:

  • First, researchers assess the location to understand and characterize the specific risks. They gather data on a variety of factors such as the age and condition of equipment, the type and volume of product flowing through the pipelines, the location of other company assets and infrastructure, construction activity, proximity of communities, and geotechnical characteristics to develop a list of potential safety scenarios for the location.
  • Consequence modeling is then used to analyze various kinds of incidents, such as a backhoe accident that ruptures a pipeline or a fire starting in a nearby transmission station. The models allow researchers to determine the potential impact radius and severity of each incident type and quantify potential consequences including injuries and deaths, property damage, product loss, and environmental damage.
  • Probability data is then used to determine the likelihood of each incident to occur. By calculating the potential consequences and probability for each incident type, analysts can develop a risk ranking that allows companies to easily see where their biggest risks are located. All consequences are calculated in terms of dollar values so that different kinds of risks can be easily quantified and objectively compared.

Battelle has a long history of pipeline integrity work for the oil and gas industry, including work on corrosion detection and mitigation, development and evaluation of pipeline inspection technologies, and underwater robots for pipeline inspection and repair. The breadth of experience offered within Battelle allows researchers to leverage scientific advances made in other fields—such as national security, pharmaceuticals or materials science—for the benefit of the oil and gas industry. Their pipeline integrity work builds on more than twenty years of experience in risk modeling and assessment for the U.S. military and other industries.