Pipelines – The Efficient Way to Transport Natural Gas
The world’s dependence on natural gas as a clean and safe fuel has resulted in a network of pipelines criss-crossing the globe. According to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, if the natural gas and liquid pipelines are laid end-to-end, it would be enough to circle the earth 20 times around the equator. The existence of such a wide network is proof of the fact that most countries have accepted that the safest and most effective way of transporting natural gas is through pipelines.
Advantages of Pipelines
Effective and Efficient: Large scale transportation of natural gas by tankers is just not feasible. On the other hand, the system of pipelines – consisting of the gathering system, the interstate pipeline and the distribution pipeline – is designed to transport gas quickly and efficiently from the point of origin to areas where there is high demand for natural gas.
Environmental Benefits: Transportation of natural gas by pipelines results in minimum carbon footprint, thus cutting down on environmental damage. The Australian Pipeliner published a study by environment consultants of the Unidel Group Pvt Ltd which analysed the carbon footprint associated with the construction and operation of a gas pipeline. The study stated that the carbon released during the construction of a gas pipeline was a ‘good carbon investment’. The overall energy requirement in operating natural gas pipelines is significantly lesser than that used to run trucks. Thus energy conservation and environmental benefits from laying a pipeline are high.
Safety Considerations: Natural gas pipelines are extremely safe. Records of the US Transportation Department show that pipelines have the best safety records as compared to other forms of transportation. Statistics show that pipelines result in fewer fatalities, injuries and environmental damage as compared to road and rail transport. According to the Manhattan Institute of Policy Research, the probability of getting struck by lightning is higher than the probability of being killed in a pipeline accident. Gas lines laid in densely populated also have a good safety record as thicker pipelines are laid at a greater depth.
Safety considerations are integrated in the design and building of pipelines across the world. The building materials undergo rigorous testing. High quality steel is used and its chemical & physical properties, ductility and malleability are all taken into account. High performance coatings are used to minimize the risk of corrosion or environmental damage. Once the pipelines are in place and operations begin, there is a continuous process of monitoring which includes SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System) to collection information from sensors along the pipeline route. Well planned emergency response systems are also put into place.
The Indian Scenario: GAIL has been the pioneers in setting up an Indian natural gas infrastructure that consists of a network of pipelines distributing natural gas to homes, commercial establishments and industries. The company has city distribution systems in several states. Gas pipelines have been set up in crowded cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Pune and have been operating successfully for years. This is because GAIL gives the utmost importance to ensuring that all safety considerations are met. Guidelines and stipulations issued by various statutory bodies and regulatory agencies are strictly followed. The company has won several safety awards over the years and has also received the prestigious ISO-14001 certification for adherence to world-class environment safety standards for its LPG plants at Vaghodia and Vijaipur and the HVJ compressor station at Vijaipur.
The ongoing Kerala Gail Gas project, a joint venture between Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and Gail Gas, is yet another example. The project is regulated by the Oil Industry Safety Directorate (under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas). The Directorate will conduct pre-commissioning inspections and audits. The project will also be audited for safety by the Chief Controller of Explosives and third parties such as the British Safety Council, apart from an internal auditor.
State-of-the-art designs, the best materials and comprehensive inspection and testing programs ensure that pipelines are the safest and most efficient way of building up a natural gas infrastructure.