El Paso’s Dan Martin Determined To Prove Safety Is ‘Job One’ With Pipelines

By Jeff Share, Editor | April 2011 Vol. 238 No. 4

P&GJ: What are your top priorities as Foundation chairman?

Martin: First and foremost it’s continuing to get the message out about the importance of natural gas and its role in the overall energy infrastructure of the U.S. There are challenges we face in meeting some of our energy needs. From an environmental perspective, natural gas has all of those qualities you want. From an energy security perspective, natural gas is a domestic supply that will be available for generations to come and will be essential as we grow the economy.

However, delivering natural gas to the consumer doesn’t come without challenges. We’ve had some very devastating incidents that are certainly a cause of concern for us, the general public and congressional legislators relating to the integrity of the infrastructure. A lot of our work is going to focus on what we can do to enhance the safety and integrity of the pipeline infrastructure in the U.S., and then, building upon that, how can we expand it to meet the needs of the U.S. with natural gas.

P&GJ: How will the Foundation specifically focus on safety issues involving pipeline infrastructure, as well as the safety of field workers?

Martin: We’ve had multiple projects under way. First, we have work under way to review and make recommendations regarding the quality of pipe being installed on new construction. There have been some concerns in the past about quality assurance/quality control on design and quality of pipe that is currently being installed. Those findings will be presented to the Foundation membership and made available to the public to show what we can do and have done to address the concerns in the quality of construction of facilities being built.

Second, we recognize we can always improve on worker safety. In late 2009, the Foundation appointed what has become a very active committee whose focus is construction and personnel safety. This builds on the strong programs that all of the membership had – not only the operators but the service providers and contractors. Again, this is something we want to make available to other member companies to demonstrate that we take very seriously the safety of the employees out there doing this job day in and day out.

Third, tying that into pipeline safety, we are reviewing the causes of the incidents that have occurred recently. The Foundation is very supportive of the initiatives needed to understand what’s going on. We need to truly understand what the causes were of the incidents that happened. Then we and the Foundation, can put on workshops, programs and studies that will then likely drive appropriate steps by the industry to help address these issues.

In the interim, the INGAA board has just put forward a board-level task force initiative to address pipeline safety. It will study many areas across a broad spectrum — not just looking at one situation — and what we can do about that.