Opponents of the Dragonpipe (Mariner East 2 pipeline) have often complained that the public has not been properly informed of the risks they are being faced with. Even our emergency responders have difficulty formulating plans for a pipeline emergency because it is not clear what issues might occur or what their consequences might be. As a result, there have been constant requests to public officials at the state, county, and municipal level to have a careful analysis of pipeline risks.
The state (and the Governor in particular) has been totally unresponsive to these requests, but it now looks like we will get several studies from other sources.
The table below lists the three currently-active risk and hazard assessment activities that I am aware of. Two of the three are quantitative risk assessments (QRAs) and one is a hazard analysis (HA). (For a discussion of the distinction between a QRA and an HA, see “Quantitative risk assessment”, “hazards analysis”, and the concept of acceptable risk.)
The one that is likely to be available first is a QRA initiated by State Senator Andy Dinniman and funded by donations from the public and from municipalities along the pipeline route. The work on that study, undertaken by Quest Consultants, is well underway and should be completed by early September. It will address three stretches of the Dragonpipe, each 2 kilometers long. One is in Chester County, one is in Delaware County, and one straddles the border. An interesting aspect of this QRA is that Quest is willing to license its software so that the same kind of analysis can be applied to other parts of the pipeline and to other pipelines entirely. Additional funds will have to be raised in order to purchase that software license, however.
Concurrently, Middletown Township has asked its pipeline consultant, Richard Kuprewicz, to provide a pipeline hazards analysis to guide its emergency response efforts. This is less ambitious than a QRA because it does not attempt to quantify the risks of a pipeline accident, but it will still be very useful as a description of what residents and their first responders need to be ready for.
The third effort, just getting underway, is a QRA initiated by Delaware County Council. It is being conducted by G2 Integrated Solutions and will cover the risks associated with both the Dragonpipe and the Adelphia pipeline in Delaware County.
The following table provides some basic information about the three efforts, to the extent I have been able to collect it. I expect that there will be some corrections and adjustments necessary, and I welcome input from anyone who has more accurate information.
|Dinniman (public funding)||Delaware County||Middletown Township|
|Quantitative risk assessment||Quantitative risk assessment||Hazard analysis (non-quantitative)|
|Three pipeline sections (2000 meters each) in Delaware & Chester Counties||Entire length of Delaware County||Middletown Township, Delaware County|
|Quest Consultants, Inc.||G2 Integrated Solutions||Richard Kuprewicz (consultant)|
|Pipelines||ME2||ME2 and Adelphia||
Mariner East system
|Public presentation||Yes||No, report only||
|Report available||September 2018||Fall 2018||
|Can be applied to any pipeline, any location. (To be licensed if sufficient funds are raised.)||None||
|Hazards to be analyzed||Probabilities of fatalities to be estimated. Injuries to be discussed but not quantified.||Probabilities of fatalities to be estimated. Unclear whether injuries will be estimated.||
Types of hazards to be listed, but no attempt to estimate their probability or consequences.
This table summarizes the three currently-active assessments of local pipeline risk.
Do we need three different studies? I am often asked whether these efforts are redundant. Wouldn’t one be enough? My answer is no: we need multiple studies. Each study’s scope and focus different (as is clear from the table above). But a more important point is that multiple studies from independent sources reduces Sunoco’s ability to claim that biases or misunderstandings have corrupted the findings. And if the results of the studies differ, the reasons for the differences will be important to investigate and will lead to a better understanding of the risks.
What’s missing? These studies represent a good starting point, but they won’t provide answers to some of the questions about risk that residents are asking. The two QRAs will only address the risks of Mariner East 2 (and the Adelphia natural gas pipeline, in the case of the Delaware County study) but not ME1, ME2x, or the proposed 12-inch bypass line. The quantitative results will be stated in terms of fatalities, but not injuries, property damage, or environmental damage. These all need quantification.
And pipeline risks are not the only issue that needs to be studied.
- We need to know what the actual economic value of this project is, once the loss of property values and the environmental costs are factored in. Is it positive or negative?
- Sunoco claims pipelines are the safest form of transportation, but where is a study that shows pipelines are safer than trains for these materials?
- Given that the majority of the material passing through this pipeline system ends up as plastic, what is the ultimate environmental cost of those plastic products?
The three studies described above are essential, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.