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

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

The interactions at the workshops opened the eyes of some folks, causing them to go back and re-look at their systems. When you evaluate your quality management systems you often find there are opportunities for improvement. It also makes you aware of the generational change in our industry’s workforce. We’ve got a new workforce that’s come in over time with individuals who may or may not understand how or why we developed those standards. So there are some educational opportunities as well within our ranks.

Ultimately, we need to continuously improve material quality, construction QA/QC, inspection practices, and training; and we are responding proactively to these issues.

P&GJ: How would you describe the industry’s relationship with PHMSA?

Martin: From an industry perspective, I would say in general we’ve had a good relationship over time. We both have the goal of having a safe network of pipelines throughout the country and our interests are therefore aligned. What I’ve seen is a dedication and commitment on both sides for getting better at what we collectively do. We’ve had to elevate the importance of active involvement within the operating community up to the executive level. We’ve had to show the regulators that it’s not just our technical folks but also the executives who are also supporting programs that we are going to put in place that will make the difference.

P&GJ: How has the industry responded since the San Bruno incident last September?

Martin: First, there is definite sorrow about what happened. I was there a couple of months after the event, and it takes your breath away. It stands as a reminder of the importance of why we do what we do and why we need to continue to enhance those efforts.

The first thing we have to do is monitor what happened out there and what the investigative agencies think the cause was. As we understand bits and pieces emerging from San Bruno or other events that have taken place, we need to continue to look internally and ask ourselves: ‘If that was us, how would we build that learning into the next step of integrity management?’ It’s vital to know precisely what happened, so we don’t go down the wrong path. That’s also why we have an industry board-level initiative under way.

P&GJ: Is the question of aging infrastructure being overblown?

Martin: It’s a logical question that people would ask, and I’ve had to answer it both internally and externally, and I think the industry has, as well. We’re not ignoring it; but in and of itself, the steel does not degrade over time. But that’s why there are reasons we have programs to protect the steel. The reason you put coating on that pipe is to protect the steel. The reason you have other cathodic protection and damage prevention programs in place is to continue to protect that steel. We know about certain manufacturing processes and time frames, so that you might have a specific program in place to ensure you are addressing the situation appropriately. This helps us verify that those pipeline systems still have the same required level of integrity as the day they were installed.

P&GJ: Is less attention being paid to the issue of greenhouse gas emissions?