Report focuses on unregulated gathering pipelines
(The Associated Press; March 22) - The federal government knows nothing about thousands of miles of pipelines that tap natural gas flows released through the drilling method known as fracking, and needs to step up oversight to ensure they are running safely, government auditors say. Private companies have put in hundreds of small gathering pipelines in recent years to collect the new gas and oil supplies freed through hydraulic fracturing.
Nationwide, about 240,000 miles of gathering pipelines ferry the fuels to processing facilities and larger pipelines. Many of these pipelines course through densely populated areas. The Government Accountability Office said in its report issued March 22 that most of those miles are not regulated by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which means they are not regularly inspected for leaks or corrosion. In some states, officials don't know where the lines are.
Nationwide, there are about 200,000 miles of gas gathering lines and up to 40,000 miles of liquid gathering lines in rural and urban areas alike, ranging in diameter from about 2 to 12 inches. But only about 24,000 of those miles are regulated, according to the report. The pipeline agency is considering collecting more data on the unregulated gas gathering lines, but the plans are still preliminary and have met with some resistance from the natural gas industry.