Pipeline Safety:

Use of Instrumented Technology to Inspect Pipelines

T-RCED-93-41: Published: May 18, 1993. Publicly Released: May 18, 1993.

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GAO discussed pipeline safety, focusing on: (1) the uses and limitations of instrumented internal inspection devices in improving pipeline safely; and (2) actions taken pursuant to the Reston, Virginia, pipeline incident. GAO noted that: (1) although internal inspection devices are the only pipeline inspection techniques that are able to detect internal and external corrosion without physical pipeline excavation, they are unable to detect longitudinal cracks and metal loss in pipe welds or travel through pipelines containing sharp bends; (2) the federal government lacks regulations on the frequency or use of smart pigs technology; (3) the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) has completed the required feasibility study which recommended that periodic pipeline inspections be performed using smart pig technology and new or replacement pipelines be compatible with smart pig technology; (4) prior National Transportation Safety Board recommendations have sought to increase the use of smart pig technology and establish federal criteria on pipeline repair, however, pipeline inspections have remained largely unregulated; (5) while causes for the Reston pipeline incident are not known, RSPA ordered the pipeline operator to reduce the pipeline's operating pressure and inspect the damaged segment using smart pig technology; and (6) pipeline companies need to perform periodic pipeline inspections using smart pig technology as well other inspection techniques to ensure pipeline integrity and safety and minimize incident damage.

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