The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has codified a number of regulatory standards that must be adhered to by companies constructing, handling, or operating hazardous gas and liquid pipelines. In conjunction with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the American Petroleum Institute (API) has worked to develop safety management systems (SMS) and accreditation programs intended to adequately train manufacturers, refiners, suppliers, pipeline operators, and service organizations.
The API recommended practice (RP) 1173 is an SMS catalogued by the Institute in their list of quality standards. It’s designed and intended to be adoptable and adaptable to pipeline companies of any size, or organizational complexity.
What is API RP 1173?
Natural gas use comprises around 34% of the US’ energy annually. Every year, trillions of cubic feet of gas are transferred via pipeline to nearly 80 million consumers nationally. Acknowledging the high-stakes risk of disruptions to pipeline operations, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) advised all related industries to develop and implement SMS protocols. As a result, the API and PHMSA have set forth a number of recommended safety practices.
Real World Stakes
- Originally, the NTSB issued recommendations for industry-wide safety management systems based on a 2010 report on a pipeline spill in Marshall, Michigan. Known as the Kalamazoo River Oil Spill, 35 miles of river were impacted and clean-up efforts took 5 years. The company responsible paid nearly $177 million in penalties.
The Department of Transportation evaluates pipeline operators every 4 years. Companies are required to meet certain metrics for facilitating public awareness programs, and for qualitatively monitoring their operational efficiency over time. Recommended practices are sophisticated guidelines – unifying a number of industry best practices into cohesive systems – intended to provide businesses with the blueprints for effective continuous improvement strategies. API RP 1173 specifically addresses the formulation and maintenance of a successful pipeline safety management system (PSMS).
The primary initiative of API RP 1173 is developing an agile PSMS that can be scaled for any and all pipeline operations. First, the plan trains teams to cultivate a management environment conducive to upholding critical safety systems. This cultural shift feeds into a company’s core values, and the level of team engagement with concepts of risk management, operations, and quality assurance practices.
Foremost, API RP 1173 is a continuous process with no end-point. The goal is to embed pipeline organizations with a consistent, dynamic, and evolving culture of safety.
The Act-Plan-Do Protocol
API RP 1173’s cyclical improvement process is modeled by a feedback system of inputs and outputs consisting of 10 essential elements.
- Management commitment and continuous improvement
The recommended inputs designate a focus on managerial involvement. In order for safety to be prioritized, the leadership should be in alignment with nurturing the proper systems and cultural elements that ensure compliance from the ground-up. By maintaining a process for continuous improvement, companies may anticipate, assess, and pre-empt many risks that might otherwise accumulate.
- Emergency preparedness and response
- Operational controls
- Competence, awareness, and training
- Documentation and record-keeping
- Stakeholder engagement
- Incident Investigation
- Evaluation and lessons learned
- Safety assurance
With the proper management systems in place, pipeline handlers and operators are enabled to work optimally within a stable framework. Operational practices, training initiatives, documentation control – business elements that are highly specific to a company – can be clearly defined, verified, and validated according to the higher-level processes captured by API RP 1173.
API RP 1173 provides a foundation upon which companies can mature along a route corresponding with skillful safety awareness principles, optimized performance, and uncompromising quality assurance standards.
Other API Quality Certification Definitions
API certifications are highly regarded within the energy and pipeline industry. The credentials provided by each qualification entail a level of knowledge and compliance-oriented expertise that guarantees exceptional inspection and quality assurance services.
The API speaks for over 600 national oil and gas corporations, covering a broad spectrum of operational involvement – from refining and manufacturing, to service and supply. Quality ordinances, regulatory resources, and other associated accredited certifications can be found through the American Petroleum Institute’s primary website.
Getting Started with Energy Worldnet
Questions or concerns about implementing an SMS for your operations? Interested in the nuances of adopting API RP 1173’s Act-Plan-Do protocol? Energy Worldnet is committed to effective leadership achieved through collaboration.
Reach out to one of our trained Compliance Specialists. They’ll walk you through the stages of interpreting regulatory codes and recommended practices, and how to introduce your business to management system changes while limiting operational impediments.