With less than one week remaining in 2005, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) reports that the dollar estimate of property damage to natural gas transmission facilities this year was more than three times the price-tag in 2004 — most likely due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that ravaged the Gulf Coast energy infrastructure this summer.

The OPS estimated that 160 incidents involving gas transmission facilities occurred in 2005, causing a total of $213.5 million in damages. This was up significantly from the 121 incidents last year that resulted in $67.7 million in property damages to gas transmission pipelines. The 2005 damage figure for gas transmission pipes is especially telling when contrasted with the property damage estimate from a decade ago — only $9.9 million.

Most of the destruction to gas transmission pipelines this year was triggered by heavy rains/flood ($37.5 million), earth movement ($31.2 million) and external corrosion ($89.6 million), according to the OPS. While external corrosion represented the highest percentage (42%) of the overall dollar damages, the greatest number of incidents were related to heavy rains/floods (45 incidents).

The number of fatalities and injuries attributed to gas transmission incidents (ruptures, explosions and fires) also were up in 2005, rising to three from one and from three to seven, respectively, the DOT agency said. Since 2000, when transmission-related deaths were 15 and injuries were 18, the OPS has reported a steady decline in these statistics.

In contrast, the amount of property damage to gas distribution lines was halved this year, falling to $20.4 million from $39.3 million in 2004, the OPS said. However, annual damage estimates have been steadily climbing since 1992, when total damages were $6.8 million.

The chief causes were fire/exploration ($6.1 million), car, truck or other vehicle not related to excavation activity ($4.3 million), and third-party excavation damage ($3.5 million), the agency noted. Fire-explosions accounted for nearly one-third of the annual property damages to gas distribution lines in 2005.

The number of deaths related to distribution line mishaps rose five-fold to 10 from two in 2004, and the number of injuries soared to 33 in 2005 from two in the previous year, the OPS said.

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