Learn how to stay safe around underground natural gas pipelines and other natural gas facilities. We keep our delivery system safe and reliable and count on you to follow all natural gas safety rules and report any incidents.
Pipeline purpose and reliability
The United States has the largest pipeline network in the world to deliver the raw materials that are processed into fuel that powers our lives. According to pipeline data collected by the U.S. Department of Transportation, pipelines are one of the safest and most cost-effective ways to transport these products. Pipeline operators are subject to many federal and state regulations as well as industry standards. These regulations and standards deal with all phases of pipeline operations.
Types of pipelines
Gathering pipelines link natural gas sources to central collection points. They also connect to transmission pipelines for long-distance transportation of natural gas.
Transmission pipelines are used to move gas from treatment plants or processing facilities across long distances between cities, states and even across the continent. These pipelines are usually longer and larger in diameter. Related structures are compressor station buildings, valves and metering stations.
Preventing pipeline damage
Even if you only occasionally dig on your property, we need your help preventing pipeline emergencies. Records show that damage from excavation-related activities, particularly from equipment digging into pipelines, is the leading cause of pipeline accidents. Without proper coordination, excavation activities in the vicinity of underground pipelines can result in dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations.
Damaging a pipeline can result in several negative impacts. These can include harm to the environment, risk to personal health, loss of natural gas service, cost of repairs and fines. Calling 811 will reach the state One Call center so that underground utilities in the vicinity of planned excavations can be located before digging. State law requires contacting the One Call center at least three full business days before the planned excavation. All state damage prevention rules should be followed when digging near a pipeline or other underground utility.
Call 811 before you dig!
- Call 811
- Wait until all buried natural gas utilities are marked with paint and flags
- Dig and excavate safely
Information on the Michigan One Call System, as well as state rules and laws:
Important information for excavators
- Do not dig or excavate before the worksite is marked.
- Do not move or remove location markers.
- Use digging and excavation best practices to ensure safety.
- Look for located buried facilities, marked with paint, chalk, flags, stakes, brushes and/or offsets.
- Be aware the American Public Works Association Uniform Color Code is used for marking excavation sites and underground facilities.
Identifying pipeline rights-of-way
Pipelines may be buried in rights-of-way (ROWs). ROWs must be kept clear of any structures and/or trees and allow pipeline operators access to perform maintenance, ground and aerial inspections, and pipeline testing.
Right-of-way encroachment prevention
Pipeline ROWs must be kept free from structures and other obstructions to provide access to the pipeline for maintenance and in the event of an emergency. If a pipeline crosses a property, then trees or high shrubs should not be planted in the ROW. Help us to prevent digging, building, storing or placing anything on or near the ROWs without first having the pipeline marked and the ROWs staked.
Identifying a pipeline location
Pipeline markers are placed above ground along the pipeline ROW and at above-ground pipeline facilities, street crossings and railroad crossings to indicate the approximate pipeline location. Markers include the pipeline operator name, emergency number and product being transported. Do not try to guess the route or location of the pipeline from where markers are placed because they do not indicate the depth and exact pipeline location.
What to do if you damage a pipeline
Even if you cause what seems to be only minor damage to the pipeline, notify us immediately. A gouge, scrape, dent or crease to the pipe or coating may cause a future break or leak. We must inspect and repair any damage to the line. Call our emergency number:
How to recognize a pipeline leak
In the unlikely event of a pipeline leak, typically, one or any combination of the following helps you recognize a leak:
Blowing dirt, fire coming from the ground, dry or frozen spots, dead vegetation within a green area or water bubbling in a pond or creek.
Usually odorless in gathering or transmission line but can have an unusual odor or rotten egg smell.
Hissing, blowing or roaring sound.
What to do in a natural gas emergency
Use these guidelines to ensure your safety and the safety of those in the area if a natural gas pipeline leak is suspected or detected.
- Leave the area immediately, moving upwind of the natural gas.
- Do not breathe the gas or make contact with the gas or the pipeline.
- Do not create any sparks with matches, lighters, switches, battery powered devices, etc.
- Do not drive a vehicle near the area of the release.
- After moving away from the natural gas release location, call our emergency number — 877-427-2583 — and notify emergency response personnel at 911.
- Do not operate any pipeline valves. Leave all valve operation to pipeline company personnel.
- Do not put out any fires burning at the pipeline.
- Secure area around leak.
- Evacuate public.
- Contact us as soon as possible at 877-427-2583.
- Establish a command center.
- Control ignition sources. If the pipeline leak is not burning, take steps to prevent open flames or other potential sources of ignition, such as an electrical switch, vehicle ignition, lighting a match, etc.
- Do not use a cellphone or two-way radio near the suspected emergency area.
- Do not attempt to put out natural gas or liquid fires. If burning, control the secondary fires.
- Do not operate any pipeline valves or equipment.
Emergency responders have tools available to understand and prepare for utility incident risks. In addition, having coordinated and prepared emergency response plans with pipeline operators leads to a more effective response. For example:
Pipeline emergency training, produced by PHMSA and the National Association of State Fire Marshals, provides an overview of pipeline operations to meet the needs of emergency responders.
Tools available for public officials and their communities to help mitigate and understand pipeline risks:
National Pipeline Mapping System: Access basic information including operator name, pipeline diameter, pipeline location and commodities transported.
National Pipeline Mapping System
Pipeline and Information Planning Alliance PIPA is a PHMSA department to reduce risks and improve safety of affected communities and pipeline operation through a set of recommended practices related to land use.
Pipeline and Information Planning Alliance
High consequence areas
Pipeline operators must identify, prioritize, evaluate and validate the integrity of gas transmission pipelines that could, in the event of a leak or failure, affect high-consequence areas (HCAs). HCAs include certain populated and occupied areas near transmission pipelines. Some examples of HCAs include, but are not limited to, stadiums, recreational areas, religious facilities, office buildings, community centers, stores, hospitals, schools and daycare facilities.
How we respond to an emergency
We conduct emergency drills to test our emergency response plan and to practice emergency response activities to help ensure an effective response. If a pipeline incident is suspected, we immediately route representatives to the scene to assess the situation and minimize impact. Our employees will be available to isolate, shut down or start any pipeline system facilities and communicate with local emergency response and public officials.
How we keep our pipelines safe
To maintain safe, reliable operations of our pipelines and facilities, we invest time and capital in the following preventive measures and procedures:
- Preventive maintenance programs
- 24-hour manned computerized pipeline monitoring
- Ground surveys
- Cathodic protection to inhibit corrosion
- In-line inspections to ensure the integrity of pipelines