Pipelines in Your Community: A Message from Centerpoint

By: Woodlands Online | Published 04/27/2020

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It may not be common knowledge, but America’s pipeline network is used every day to transport products such as natural gas to homes, businesses and industrial facilities.

And according to statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board, pipelines are the safest, most economical method to transport products.

CenterPoint Energy is committed to the safe operation of our natural gas pipelines and facilities in your community. In fact, we monitor the operations of our pipelines from our control centers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our natural gas facilities are designed, installed, tested, operated and maintained in accordance with all applicable federal and state requirements.

Because safety is so important, we’re dedicated to maintaining an excellent pipeline safety program, including routine inspections, corrosion protection, maintenance and testing programs, employee training and public education.

Due to their proximity to populated or environmentally sensitive areas, some portions of our pipeline systems have been designated as High Consequence Areas (HCAs). These areas are subject to increased inspection and maintenance measures, known as an Integrity Management Program (IMP).

More details on CenterPoint Energy’s integrity management programs and natural gas safety can be found at CenterPointEnergy.com/Safety.

To view and download maps of transmission pipelines in your county, see the National Pipeline Mapping System’s online mapping program, managed by the federal government at npms.phmsa.dot.gov.

How can you tell where a pipeline is located?
You probably live or work near a pipeline. Since most are buried underground, pipeline markers are used to indicate their approximate location along the route. They can be found where a pipeline intersects a street, highway or railway, and they display:

  • The material transported in the line.
  • The name of the pipeline operator.
  • A telephone number where the operator can be reached in the event of an emergency.

Looking for local distribution pipelines? These aren’t typically identified with pipeline markers. A call to 811 will help identify the location of these pipelines. Always Call Before You Dig!

Are pipeline markers always placed on top of the pipeline?
Though the general location of a pipeline is marked, pipeline markers cannot be relied upon to indicate the exact position of the pipeline. The pipeline may also not run a straight course between markers. While markers are helpful in locating pipelines, they are limited in the information they provide; if it’s depth or the number of pipelines within an area that you’re looking for, you won’t find it on a marker.

What’s in a pipeline?

  • Gaseous and liquid materials under high pressure; many of these liquids form gaseous vapor clouds when released into the air.
  • Many contain colorless and odorless products.

What are some things to be aware of regarding gas pipelines?

  • Some gases are lighter than air and will rise.
  • Other heavier-than-air gases and liquids stay near the ground and collect in low spots.
  • All petroleum gases and liquids are flammable.
  • Any pipeline leak, gas or not, can be potentially dangerous.

What are some characteristics of natural gas?

  • Lighter than air.
  • Non-toxic.
  • Odorless in natural state.
  • Smells like rotten eggs when odorized.
  • Explosive or burning range is 5 percent to 15 percent gas-to-air mixture.

Regarding pipeline access and security
To provide access to the pipeline for maintenance, pipeline right-of-ways must be kept free from structures and other obstructions, especially in the event of an emergency. If a pipeline crosses your property, please do not plant trees or high shrubs that could get in the way. Do not dig, build, store or place anything near the pipeline without first having it marked and the right-of-ways staked.

If you witness unauthorized digging or suspicious activity on a pipeline right-of-way, please report it to the authorities or call your local CenterPoint Energy emergency number.

How to recognize a natural gas emergency

  • Look. Do you see persistent bubbling in standing water or discolored vegetation where it shouldn’t be? These are signs of a possible leak around the pipeline area.
  • Listen. Do you hear a hissing or roaring sound? This could potentially be a natural gas leak.
  • Smell. Notice a strange or unusual odor? If you smell sulfur or rotten eggs, this could indicate a natural gas leak.

A pipeline emergency could be:

  • A damaged pipeline.
  • A leaking pipeline.
  • A fire or explosion near or directly involving a pipeline or pipeline facility.
  • A natural disaster affecting the pipeline, such as earthquake, flood or soil erosion.

Actions to take if you suspect a natural gas leak
For the sake of your personal safety as well as those around you, you should:

  • IMMEDIATELY LEAVE THE AREA on foot in an upwind direction away from the leak or vapor cloud. Maintain a safe distance and warn others to stay away from the leak. Abandon any equipment being used in or near the area.
  • SEEK THE AID OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES. Call 911 immediately.
  • NOTIFY CENTERPOINT ENERGY RIGHT AWAY. Call your local CenterPoint Energy emergency number and give your name, the location and a description of the leak.

Do NOT:

  • Create any sparks or heat sources that could ignite escaping gas.
  • Start a car, turn switches on or off, or light a match or cigarette.
  • Turn off gas meter or attempt to operate any pipeline valves.
  • Use a cell phone near the suspected emergency area.
  • Drive into or near a leak or vapor cloud.
  • Go into a leak or vapor cloud to turn off equipment.

What actions will CenterPoint Energy take during an emergency?
Our main priority is the safety of our customers and the public. Our qualified personnel are trained in emergency response activities and regularly receive refresher training involving various types of response levels and emergency scenarios. Our team is trained to work within the Unified Incident Command System; by these standards, we will immediately dispatch our employees to the site to help handle the emergency, as well as provide information to public safety officials to aid in their response. We will also take the necessary actions to minimize the impact of the emergency in any way possible.

Public safety personnel and other unauthorized personnel should not attempt to operate any of the valves on the pipeline, as this could make the situation worse and cause other accidents to happen.

Call Before You Dig. It’s the law.

Pipeline emergencies can easily be avoided with your help. If your company does excavation work, or if you are a homeowner or farmer who occasionally digs on your property, be aware of the hazards regarding pipelines. Records show that damage from excavation-related activities, particularly from equipment digging into pipelines, is the leading cause of pipeline accidents. When engaging in excavation, always be mindful of the underground pipelines that may be around.

Dig safely. For your safety, state law requires you to call 811, the Call Before You Dig number or your local One Call Center at least 48 hours (two working days) before you dig-drill-blast. Taking the time to call before you dig protects your safety by preventing serious accidents and injuries. It also helps prevent disruption of services and possible delay of your project. For more information, visit Call811.com.

What should you do if you are digging and disturb a pipeline?
Even if you cause what seems to be only minor damage to the pipeline, notify the pipeline company immediately. A gouge, scrape, dent or crease to the pipe or coating may cause a future break or leak. It is imperative that the pipeline company inspects and repairs damage to the line. Many states have laws requiring damages to be reported to the facility owner and/or the One Call Center by dialing 811. Do not attempt to make the repairs to the line yourself. If a line is ruptured or leaking, call 911.

About CenterPoint Energy
CenterPoint Energy’s natural gas transmission and distribution businesses have been serving customers for more than a century. We sell and deliver natural gas to more than 4.5 million homes and businesses in eight states: Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota (including Minneapolis), Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas (including greater Houston area). We are investing in modernizing our natural gas infrastructure and are committed to eliminating cast-iron pipe in all our territories.

Call CenterPoint Energy with your questions at one of the following numbers or visit CenterPointEnergy.com/ContactUs.
 

Arkansas

   

800-992-7552

Beaumont

   

800-376-9663

East Texas

   

800-259-5544

Houston (metro area)

   

800-752-8036

Minnesota

   

800-245-2377

Mississippi

   

800-371-5417

North Louisiana

   

866-275-5252

Oklahoma

   

866-275-5265

South Louisiana

   

800-477-0177

South Texas

   

800-427-7142

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