DOT Requirements for Pipeline Safety Pose New Challenges

PBS&J Launches New GIS Tool to Streamline Compliance 

Orlando, FL – In September 2003, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) issued the final version of the 49 CFR Part 192 regulation requiring that gas pipeline transmission operators nationwide identify High Consequence Areas (HCAs) to safeguard the public in the event of a pipeline rupture. HCAs are defined as concentrations of at-risk populations in confined or difficult-to-evacuate facilities such as day-care centers, hospitals, schools, retirement homes, and prisons. 

Until now, identifying HCAs has required that field engineers laboriously compile data from plat maps depicting thousands of miles of pipeline through townships and counties matched with information from surveys of HCA sites.  A faster tool from PBS&J is now available to help pipeline operators comply with the regulation. PBS&J’s new ArcGIS™ analytical tool – HCAIdentifier – provides an alternative to manually identifying HCAs along pipeline routes. 

"HCAIdentifer’s GIS platform provides the first step in risk analysis and mitigation,” said Thomas Schweitzer, P.E., CFM, PBS&J’s Information Solutions Senior Program Manager. “It’s a useful tool not only for pipeline operators who must comply with the 49 CFR Part 192 regulation, but also for gas distribution operators who may soon be facing a similar regulation.”

HCAIdentifier displays pipeline sections and determines the HCA buffer zone – a “moving circle buffer”—around the pipeline. It identifies the HCAs within the buffer zone by calculating planimetric measurements, such as the distance between HCA structures and the center of the pipeline. Additionally, it alerts operators regarding potential high-risk zones by performing calculations using the pressure and diameter of the pipeline and by flagging hot spots where leaks caused by mounting pipeline pressure could potentially cause serious hazard risk.

As per the 49 CFR Part 192 regulation, in the event of a gas leak, gas transmission operators are responsible for contacting the local sheriff who can initiate HCA evacuation procedures.  “If sheriffs are not notified in a timely manner, gas transmission operators are now held liable and they risk federal audits and millions of dollars in fines,” commented Schweitzer. “HCAIdentifier is a great tool to protect the public.”

This year, PBS&J ( celebrates its 45th year of continuous growth and success in meeting the challenging planning, environmental, engineering, architecture, construction management, and program management needs of its clients. Over the past decades, PBS&J has expanded from a small Southeast-based engineering firm to a nationwide leader in civil, construction, environmental, and transportation markets. The employee-owned firm is ranked by Engineering News-Record as 21st among the nation’s top consulting firms. PBS&J has 3,700 employees and more than 70 offices located throughout the U.S. and abroad.

ArcGIS™ is a trademark of ESRI.