Comprehensive and Site-Specific Consequence Assessments for Pipeline Releases

Historical incidents involving oil and gas pipelines have brought more attention from land owners/developers to the potential risks and consequences from an accidental release from a pipeline in close proximity to developed areas. Comprehensive and site-specific consequence assessments can help operators understand the magnitude and extent of potential oil and gas pipeline incidents and their adverse impacts. Simulating releases (modeling) can be used to analyze a wide range of hypothetical release scenarios with varying: hazards assessed, types of products transported/stored, routes, and site conditions. 

Key Details

Project Name

Comprehensive and Site-Specific Consequence Assessments for Pipeline Releases


Undisclosed North American pipeline operator


  • Energy


  • North America

Services Provided

  • Environment
  • Health, safety and risk
  • Oceans and coastal
  • Spatial intelligence and GIS

An undisclosed North American pipeline operator contracted RPS to perform a consequence assessment for accidental releases from two pipelines, one transporting highly volatile liquid (HVL) products (natural gas liquids) and the other a crude oil product, in nearby right of ways (ROWs). New development near those ROWs has changed the overall risk circumstances associated with operating these pipelines. RPS simulated overland transport of liquid hydrocarbons, atmospheric dispersion of harmful vapors, and thermal radiation from both pool and jet fires to help the operator understand the potential consequences from an accidental release to nearby populations. For releases of crude oil, RPS used the OILMAPLand model to asses overland transport pathways of full-bore ruptures at intervals along the current pipeline and alternative routes to determine all the possible pathways of release. Locations where crude oil was expected to form pools of oil on the land surface were identified, and the thermal radiation from pool fires were assessed. For releases of the HVL products, atmospheric dispersion modeling was performed, assuming an unignited release, to assess vapor concentrations exceeding explosive and human health related limits. Additionally, jet fire release simulations were performed, assuming an ignited release, to assess thermal radiation levels away from a rupture site.


A release of crude oil and HVL products can result in a variety of different hazards depending on the release scenario and local environmental conditions. Quantifying the potential consequences from these different hazards required a comprehensive and site-specific modeling approach. A variety of modeling tools and numerous release scenarios were necessary to fully quantify the risk and present it in a consistent, comprehendible manner. Evaluating different route alternatives and varying seasonal conditions called for site-specific input data and a comprehensive scenario matrix that could account for the varying conditions and characteristics of the different hazards and release scenarios. Modeling results had to be clearly summarized to help the operator make informed decisions.


RPS performed a comprehensive suite of modeling that addressed potential impacts for a range of different release scenarios and hazards. These scenarios varied by pipeline, product, geographic location, and hazard type, and assessed a range of level impacts. Results were summarized to demonstrate the potential impact radius for each hazard and threat level as GIS maps. The operator was then able to use the results to identify the potential impacts on structures or environmentally sensitive areas near the pipeline ROW.


Project Statistics

hazard types assessed
overland crude oil release simulations
vapor dispersion and thermal radiation modeling scenarios

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