The U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) has partnered with other federal and state agencies and the pipeline industry to design and cost-effectively build a National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS). The NPMS is operational and consists of a single National Repository and fourteen state repositories. The NPMS depicts the location of the natural gas transmission pipelines, hazardous liquid pipelines, and liquefied natural gas facilities under OPS jurisdiction. The system is being used by OPS as a decision support tool for emergency planning, inspection planning, and determining where additional precautions are needed to protect people and the environment.
The National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) is a geographic information system (GIS) created by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) in cooperation with other federal and state governmental agencies and the pipeline industry. The NPMS consists of geospatial and attribute data and metadata related to the interstate and intrastate natural gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities jurisdictional to OPS.
Pipeline facility data in the NPMS is submitted by pipeline operators on a voluntary basis. The success of the initiative relies on the participation of the pipeline industry. OPS has contacted and continues to communicate with members of pipeline trade associations regarding participation in the NPMS. As of June 1, 2001, the NPMS contained approximately 83% of hazardous liquid and 40% of natural gas transmission pipeline mileage under OPS jurisdiction, for a total of 54% of pipeline mileage being collected for the NPMS.
OPS is now harnessing the power of GIS by using the NPMS as a tool for decision support, emergency response, inspection planning, community access, and regulatory compliance. With the help of the NPMS, OPS is moving forward with rulemakings that require risk-based pipeline integrity management. Through visualization, geospatial analysis, and the integration of various databases, OPS is using the NPMS to help ensure the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation's pipeline transportation system.
The Accountable Pipeline Safety and Partnership Act states that OPS must adopt rules requiring a pipeline operator to create and maintain accurate maps that identify the location of the operator's natural gas transmission, significant distribution, and major hazardous liquid pipeline facilities in the state; a description of the characteristics of the operator's pipelines in the state; a description of the products transported through the operator's pipelines; and any other information that OPS considers useful to inform a state of the presence of pipeline facilities and operations in the state. In addition, this information is to be made available by the operators to OPS and appropriate state officials upon request.
To meet the intent of the mandate, OPS is requesting that operators voluntarily submit reasonably accurate geospatial and attribute data on natural gas transmission pipelines, hazardous liquid trunklines, and LNG facilities operating in the United States. Standards for geospatial and attribute data and metadata have been drafted for use by operators in preparing their submissions to the NPMS.
The NPMS Model
The NPMS consists of a National Repository and 14 state repositories. The National Repository is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. State repositories are maintained by various state agencies and universities, and currently reside in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. State repositories are responsible for processing the pipeline and LNG facility data within their state boundaries. Additional state repositories are solicited through the Commerce Business Daily (CBD). The National Repository is primarily responsible for processing data for states without repositories, maintaining the NPMS Web site, and maintaining an Internet mapping application. The National Repository incorporates data from the state repositories to create a seamless national pipeline and LNG database, and serves as the final processing and storage facility for all pipeline facility data.
Two NPMS standards documents exist. The Operator Standards describe how operators can participate in the NPMS. The Repository Standards describe the operations of the NPMS state and National repositories. The National Repository has also developed metadata and attribute data software templates. These standards and templates are available for download from the NPMS Web page (http://www.npms.rspa.dot.gov/).
The Role of the NPMS at OPS
OPS is moving toward risk-based regulatory practices. A rulemaking entitled "Pipeline Integrity Management in High Consequence Areas [Operators with 500 or More Miles]" (Integrity Management Program, or "IMP") was published in December 2001. The objective of the rule is to improve pipeline safety through new requirements for periodic testing, integrated evaluation of risk information, improved federal/state oversight of operator integrity management programs and plans, and enhanced communication to communities. The initial rule applies to operators with 500 or more miles of hazardous liquid pipelines jurisdictional to 49 CFR Part 195. A similar rule for operators of smaller, jurisdictional liquid pipeline systems will follow shortly. OPS also intends to issue an integrity management rule for natural gas transmission operators, as well as requirements to improve community awareness and address "public right to know" concerns in 2001.
A key feature of IMP is that it provides protection for OPS-defined High Consequence Areas (HCA's). Instead of a simple plan for inspections, IMP requires that operators focus resources to ensure the integrity of pipeline facilities in geographic areas (HCA's) where the consequences of a pipeline release would be most adverse. HCA's were defined with the help of GIS technology and readily available data. Populated areas, environmentally sensitive areas, and waterways were identified in the early development of the rule as areas in need of protection. GIS and the NPMS played integral parts in characterizing these geographic areas and in developing final definitions for HCA's. HCA's are defined as:
Under this rulemaking, operators are required to develop a written Integrity Management Program. As part of this integrity management program, operators must identify all pipeline segments that could affect an HCA. The NPMS is an invaluable resource for this task. With the exception of USA's, all HCA's are currently delineated and are available in digital format to the pipeline industry through the NPMS website. USA's are partially complete at present, and are to be completed by the end of calendar year 2001. Approximately 83% of the hazardous liquid pipeline mileage jurisdictional to 49 CFR Part 195 resides in the NPMS as of June 1, 2001. Using GIS and the data as provided by the NPMS, operators can easily and quickly identify pipeline segments with the potential to affect high consequence areas. In addition, hardcopy maps submitted to the NPMS have been digitized, and operators can access this digital data through the NPMS website. Finally, the NPMS provides a common data set as reference for both operators and regulators to aid in achieving the requirement of identifying pipeline segments that can affect HCA's.
HCA boundaries will change over time due to population expansion, the addition of environmental data, etc. New HCA's will be made available to the industry via the Internet. Any new HCA's must be incorporated into operators' integrity management plans within one year of the identification of the new areas. Integrity assessments of segments that could affect these new HCA's must be completed within five years of their identification.
Access to the NPMS
A homepage for the NPMS is available on the Internet at http://www.npms.rspa.dot.gov/. The site provides general information regarding the NPMS, the ability to download standards, software, and data and metadata, statistics regarding NPMS participants and their submissions, and contact information for the NPMS repositories and management. Also available at the site is a link to an Esri Internet Map Server (IMS) application, where users can view pipelines that have been incorporated into the NPMS in relation to high consequence areas and other geographic features.
All high consequence areas that have been delineated are available for viewing and querying on the IMS application. With the exception of ecological unusually sensitive areas, all high consequence areas are also available for download from the NPMS Web site. Due to data licensing restrictions, the ecological USA data is available to hazardous liquid pipeline operators only and must be requested from OPS (instructions for making data requests are available on the NPMS Web site). Several other data layers have been collected from other federal agencies and either are or will be available on the internet mapping application and for download from the NPMS Web site. These layers include:
National security has been a recurring issue associated with the collection of NPMS data. The Chief Infrastructure Assurance Officer and other security personnel at the U.S. DOT have determined that NPMS data poses no threat to national security due to the inability of "worst-case scenarios" to be derived from the use of these data. Due to the fact that attributes such as throughput and operating pressure are not part of the NPMS, and that pipeline diameter is an optional attribute, the NPMS is not considered a risk to national security.
The original goal of the NPMS was to collect 70% of all pipeline mileage jurisdictional to OPS by the end of calendar year 2000. As of June 1, 2001, the NPMS contained approximately 54% of all pipeline mileage jurisdictional to OPS. OPS is continuing to work with the trade associations and pipeline operators in requesting pipeline data and updates to previous submissions. Partial and piecemeal submissions are encouraged in order to expedite population of the database. OPS encourages pipeline operators and other interested parties to contact NPMS representatives with questions or comments about the program, standards, and the IMS application.
U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Pipeline Safety
400 7th St. SW, DPS-11
Washington DC, 20590