High Consequence Area

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: May 8, 2022

What Does High Consequence Area Mean?

A high consequence area (HCA) is a location in which a pipeline spill has the potential to cause greater harm to the public or damage to the environment.

These areas act as a buffer zone extending about 200 meters (656 feet) to either side of the pipeline. Pipelines passing through HCAs require additional safety measures and precautions to prevent spills and minimize the damage from an accidental release of the pipeline's contents.

Safeopedia Explains High Consequence Area

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's CFR 195.452 standard requires operators to determine an emergency flow restricting device (EFRD) is required for pipelines running through a high consequence area.

Areas classified as HCAs include:

  • Commercially navigable waterways
  • High population areas (containing 50,000 or more people with a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile)
  • Other populated areas (a concentrated population, such as a town or village)
  • Unusually sensitive areas (a drinking water resource or an area especially susceptible to environmental damage)

Identifying a High Consequence Area

The Department of Transportation's 49 CFR 192.905 standard details two methods an operator can use to identify a high consequence area.

Method 1: Obtain Information About the Site

Obtain information from routine operations and maintenance activities. This information is available from public officials who are able to list the locations that meet the criteria for an HCA.

If public officials don't have the relevant information, operators can use one of the following sources to identify an HCA:

  • Signs or other visible markings
  • Government agencies that license or register the site
  • Lists or maps maintained by government agencies

Method 2: Assess the Site

If the area is not already identified as an HCA, the operator must assess the site to determine whether it satisfies anty of the definitions in §192.903. This is based on a number of factors, including the proximity of buildings intended for human occupancy and whether any nearby facilities are used by people with impaired mobility.

If the area meets the definition of an HCA, it must be incorporated into the operator’s baseline assessment plan as one within one year of identification.

Elements of an Integrity Management Program

An operator must draft a pipeline integrity management plan that includes the following elements:

  1. Process for identifying pipeline segments that affect HCAs
  2. Baseline assessment plan
  3. Analysis for integrating all available information about pipeline integrity and consequences of a failure
  4. Addressing integrity issues raised by assessments and outlining criteria for remedial actions
  5. Assessing and evaluating on a regular basis to maintain the integrity of the pipeline
  6. Identifying preventive and mitigative measures to protect HCAs
  7. Methods to measure the effectiveness of the program
  8. Reviewing integrity assessment results and information analysis by a qualified person

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