What happens to abandoned pipelines?

Abandoned Pipelines

Above you’ll see a map of abandoned pipelines in Ohio. That’s 39 pipelines that have been identified as abandoned or retired.

The question is, what actually happens to a pipeline when it’s not in use anymore?

In 2016, PHSMA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) issued a bulletin to remind pipeline operators that the companies are to “purge all combustibles and seal any facilities left in place.”

Pipelines that are shut down could still carry hazardous liquid or gas. In 2014, a Los Angeles pipeline that was out-of-service leaked oil into a suburb.

But for those who follow the requirement, abandoned pipelines are just that — abandoned.

One solution for the pipelines is to fill them with concrete, but that can be expensive to do. There are also times when a company abandons a pipeline and hands it over to a different operator, which must be approved by PHSMA.

PHSMA also requires companies to follow guidelines for abandoned pipelines, including registering the pipelines that are no longer in use. Operators are required to fill an abandonment report with PHSMA.

But there are no guidelines on if the pipeline should be removed or stay in place. And if it is removed, there doesn’t seem to be regulations on how it is removed.

As for the abandoned Ohio pipelines, maybe one has been lying dormant in your county and maybe even in your backyard. But, for the most part, you’re likely safe from the abandoned steel.

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