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Why are risk assessments so critical when planning to transport CO2 by pipeline?

Decarbonizing safely and sustainably will require a science-based approach to risk assessments for transporting CO2 by pipeline – to meet regulatory requirements, streamline project approvals and ultimately increase the amount of carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere.

26 January 2023 | 5 min read
Jeremy Fontenault
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Carbon dioxide (CO2) has already been transported via pipelines for decades, but as the number of Carbon Capture Use and Storage (CCUS) facilities increases, the transportation capacity of pipelines must keep pace. With this growth, robust risk assessments will be required to promote and maintain safe CO2 transport.

Energy companies and pipeline operators are under increasing pressure to establish and maintain their environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials. Science-based risk assessments are a critical component of successful ESG strategies. When communicated well, they streamline project approvals while minimizing public concern.

The pipeline industry must implement comprehensive health, safety and environmental risk mitigation procedures for the transportation of CO2 to secure their social license to build and operate this essential component of the energy transition.  

What are the risks of transporting CO2 by pipeline?

Transportation of any hazardous liquids and gases by pipeline has inherent risks. Risks from the release of hydrocarbons such as natural gas and crude oil have been well documented. They include damage from hazardous liquid plumes traveling over land or into water and releases of natural gas and other vapors can create fires, explosions or toxic vapor clouds. While CO2 is not flammable and much less toxic than oil or gas, there are risks, and those risks must be understood, measured, and mitigated where possible.

Co2 safety personal portable gas monitor and detector attached to worker's trousers
California State Capitol Building at Dusk
CO2 vapor concentration
potential impact area CO2 release
A diagram of the distances of various threshold levels of a hypothetical release with concentration levels at multiple distances.