Major changes have occurred to the pipeline safety regime as a result of new regulations that were introduced in April 1996. The effects of these new regulations on the regulators and the industry are examined.

The Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996 have been developed to allow flexibility for initiative and invention but also ensure a sound framework for level competition. In particular, the regulations were based on the idea of setting goals in order to achieve an end, rather than prescribing particular methods or measures. They also reflect a desire to have a single regime for both onshore and offshore pipelines.

The regulations recognise the need for different approaches for pipelines with different levels of risks. The move away from prescriptive regulations, with its attendant compliance culture, should encourage operators to achieve an equivalent or greater level of safety than has been possible so far.

The paper looks at the major differences between the old regulatory regime and the new, especially in the way pipeline safety is dealt with. The effects on the process of obtaining authorisations for pipeline construction and subsequent inspection and maintenance regimes are described. The paper also considers areas where different ideas and methods have been, and are being, tried especially in the areas of design, operations and maintenance and where there have been difficulties in adapting to the new culture. Some problems experienced in dealing with the concept of a Major Accident Prevention Document are discussed.

The Pipelines Safety Regulations were introduced in April with a number of issues unresolved and these are explored in the paper. These issues are now under further consideration and it is planned to consult with the industry, and others, during the first half of 1997.

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