Pipeline Construction and PHMSA
PHMSA's responsibility in pipeline construction is assuring that the pipeline will operate safely once it is placed in service. PHMSA has established regulations governing aspects of pipeline design and construction and conducts inspections of pipelines under construction in order to fulfill this responsibility.
Requirements related to pipeline design and construction are in Chapter 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). 49 CFR Part 192 establishes requirements for gas pipelines and 49 CFR Part 195 does so for hazardous liquid pipelines. Design requirements address such issues as the required strength of pipe for certain applications and the design of components that will be attached to the pipeline. Requirements specifically addressing construction issues include how welding must be performed, limitations on pipe bending, installing pipe in the ditch, and the required depth of burial.
PHMSA inspects pipeline construction to assure compliance with these requirements. Inspectors review operator-prepared construction procedures to verify that they conform to regulatory requirements. Inspectors then observe construction activities in the field to assure that they are conducted in accordance with the procedures.
There has been a significant jump in the amount of pipeline under construction in the past few years. PHMSA has responded to this increase by devoting more of its inspector's time to performing construction inspections. During 2020, however, PHMSA shifted much of its oversight functions to a virtual platform due to Covid-19. PHMSA determined that, for a limited time, it could effectively evaluate operator compliance with the mandatory procedural, record and documentation requirements through virtual inspections. The graph shows the number of inspector-days per year devoted to inspecting pipeline construction.