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Importance of leak testing

Pipeline design codes require thorough leak testing following the breaking of containment; this can either be hydraulic or pneumatic. The purpose of this leak test is to provide assurance of the integrity of re-made or new joints to ensure they are fit for purpose.

The HSE have recently released a statement on an incident which occurred in October 2010 on an unleaded petrol pipeline owned by British Pipeline Agency Ltd as a result of a leak at a joint.

An investigation by the HSE revealed that the joints in a section of replaced pipework had not been properly commissioned and tested prior to re-starting the pipeline and 35,000 litres of unleaded petrol was released under pressure. There was no ignition which limited the consequences of the release but an extensive clean up and decontamination exercise was required.

The HSE successfully prosecuted BPA on the 26th September under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

It is worth noting that much of the legislation governing pipeline operations in the UK is known as a Statutory Instrument (SI) which the HSE can prosecute against, however, the Act of Parliament which these SI’s sit under is the original 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act (including a 2013 order to amend Offshore inclusions) and it is not uncommon for the HSE to prosecute under the Health and Safety at Work Act which is less prescriptive than the Statutory Instruments.

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