skip to main content
Close Icon

In order to deliver a personalized, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. This is done using simple text files called cookies which sit on your computer. By continuing to use this site and access its features, you are consenting to our use of cookies. To find out more about the way Informa uses cookies please go to our Cookie Policy page.

Global Search Configuration

Ovum view

Summary

After five significant breaches of oil and gas pipelines in the US in January alone, it is evident that the industry is not doing enough to police itself. It must make better use of readily available IT to improve surveillance, inspection, accident prevention, and incident response.

The oil & gas industry should take spills more seriously, and rob opponents of a major argument

Although oil and gas pipelines are arguably safer than other modes of fossil fuels transportation, they are not without risk. Scores of incidents each year cause death, injury, and environmental harm. They expose operators to penalties and spawn negative public images that affect market capitalization.

These consequences are not inevitable. Some incidents can be prevented with earlier detection of warning signs. Others grow rapidly worse because operators don’t learn of them immediately and are slow to respond. With today’s sensors, wireless network capabilities, and software-based automated responses, it is possible to greatly reduce the number of spills and minimize those that cannot be prevented. Call it a cliché, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The recent incidents come as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project awaits a go or no-go decision by President Obama and upcoming hearings in the US Senate. Keystone XL would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, US, where it would join with pipeline segments already completed. That throughput is equivalent to roughly 6% of the combined daily oil production of the US and Canada.

Pipeline proponents position the project as economically necessary, for both the crude oil that it will help to deliver to market and the jobs that it will create. Opponents argue that the negative global consequences of fossil fuel dependence are already evident and will only accelerate. Those consequences should be reason enough not to build the pipeline, they say, and health and safety risks and the contamination of air, water, and soil only strengthen their case.

At this stage, it’s anyone’s guess whether Keystone XL will eventually be built. What is certain, however, is that the industry can significantly reduce the number and severity of pipeline incidents by devising, adopting, aggressively executing, and promoting a program that exploits today’s detection and control technologies to their fullest. Such an initiative will rob opponents of at least one of their major arguments and improve the industry’s standing with the public. And, as in so many areas of technology, the costs might seem large but they will pale in comparison to the environmental, financial, legal, and reputational consequences of the incidents that they prevent. It is the responsible thing to do, and the smartest business and political move.

Appendix

Author

Warren Wilson, Lead Analyst/Energy – Upstream Oil & Gas Technology

warren.wilson@ovum.com

Recommended Articles

  • Service Provider Markets, Consumer & Entertainment Services,...

    MWC 2018 Highlights

    By Ronan De Renesse 27 Feb 2018

    Over 20 of our senior Ovum analysts and consultants attended this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February. In between meetings, briefings and presentations, our analyst team were blogging and tweeting about key developments, trends and rumors. Have a look through our daily MWC 2018 Highlights to find out what happened.

    Topics 5G AI IoT Cloud Payments SDN/NFV Smart home

  • Enterprise Decision Maker, Enterprise IT Strategy and Select...

    2017 Trends to Watch: Big Data

    By Tony Baer 21 Nov 2016

    The breakout use case for big data will be fast data. The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasing the urgency for enterprises to embrace real-time streaming analytics, as use cases from mobile devices and sensors become compelling to a wide range of industry sectors.

    Topics Big data and analytics IoT

  • Consumer & Entertainment Services

    US pay TV: Is it facing an existential threat?

    By Adam Thomas 28 Mar 2018

    With US pay TV having endured the worst year in its history, thoughts have inevitably turned to the future. The likelihood remains that the immediate future will remain highly uncomfortable for everyone except the scaled multinational digital platforms.

;

Have any questions? Speak to a Specialist

Europe, Middle East & Africa team - +44 (0) 207 017 7700


Asia-Pacific team - +61 (0)3 960 16700

US team - +1 646 957 8878

+44 (0) 207 551 9047 - Operational from 09.00 - 17.00 UK time

You can also contact your named/allocated Client Services Executive using their direct dial.
PR enquiries - Call us at +44 7770704398 or email us at pr@ovum.com

Contact marketing - 
marketingdepartment@ovum.com

Already an Ovum client? Login to the Knowledge Center now