Utility pipelines are prolific. Here in the United States alone there are over 2,400,000 miles of energy pipelines stretched across the country, connecting regional areas and bringing much-needed utilities like oil and gas to citizens.
Every year anywhere from 15-30 significant pipeline failures occur, some resulting in serious injury or death. Even in the least destructive scenarios, utilities can be down for days and even weeks before full repair is completed. At Aptus, we specialize in preventing pipeline accidents on bridges before they happen. What causes them, and what can we do to lower the risk of pipeline failure?
- Lack of Maintenance
The simplest explanation is always the best one; this adage holds true for pipelines. When utility pipeline maintenance is neglected or performed incorrectly, small issues become bigger over time. Pipes are bound to degrade, loosen, crack, and more…any mechanical structure must be maintained regularly to perform optimally.
The fix: Regularly-scheduled pipeline utility inspections carried out by experts
- Insufficient Materials
America’s pipelines are made of a wide range of materials, from cast iron to GFRP. Nationally, efforts are underway to replace at-risk sections of aging pipelines with pipes made of more durable materials. Where cast iron is subject to rust, buckling, and fissures, coated steel requires less maintenance and stands up better to the elements.
The fix: Replace outdated materials like iron and aluminum with resilient materials like steel and/or plastic
Corrosion is a huge problem for utility pipelines, particularly those attached to bridges. When exposed to moisture, improperly coated or protected pipes as well as any attachment components can corrode very quickly; this compromises the structural integrity of the entire pipeline. Corrosion can cause leaks, weak spots in pipes, and even whole-pipe failures.
The fix: Employment of anti-corrosion strategies like galvanization and/or barrier coatings
- Improper Repairs
Properly-performed maintenance is almost as important to pipelines as initial installation. When handled incorrectly, repair welds are subject to failure, connection points are subject to leaks, and future failure points can be overlooked. In an effort to save money and streamline logistics, too many utility providers and/or pipeline owners neglect to bring in qualified utility repair specialists.
The fix: Engagement of a team qualified and outfitted specifically for repair of pipeline utilities
- Construction Intrusion
Excavation near pipelines should be carefully managed from start to finish. Human intrusion during construction digging dents, knocks loose, and even punctures pipelines dozens of times a year. Proper techniques (hand-digging, soft-digging, vacuum excavation) should always be used near known pipelines and full channels of communication engaged.
The fix: Planning and agency coordination of digs near known pipelines to prevent intrusion
Aptus is a leader in inspection, repair, and maintenance of bridge-attached utility pipelines. Our expert teams are always available to consult on or remediate pipeline failure issues but as we advise all our clients, prevention is a better strategy.