Since 2007, the pipeline industry has experienced a large increase in pipeline construction. Construction inspections performed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have revealed numerous quality issues. These inspections, coupled with several pre-commissioning pressure test failures, first year in-service failures, and other material and construction problems, brought construction quality to the attention of the oil and gas pipeline industry.

A proven method for improving quality in other industries is through the implementation of a quality management system (QMS). One widely accepted QMS used across industries is ISO 9001. Additionally, several QMS standards specific to the oil and gas industry have been developed. Due to the uniqueness of pipeline construction projects, PHMSA solicited proposals in 2013 for a research and development project titled, “Improving Quality Management Systems for Pipeline Construction Activities” which was awarded to and co-funded by DNV GL.

This paper describes the QMS framework for pipeline construction activities and an accompanying guidance document developed by DNV GL. The framework and guidance document are intended to assist pipeline operating companies and contractors in the development and implementation of a company-specific QMS, with a goal of elevating the focus on quality to the level of safety.

The framework adopts a risk-based, process approach, as defined in other QMS and management system documents, and follows the plan-do-act-check methodology. The QMS framework is designed to be scalable for a wide range of pipeline construction projects, including liquid and gas transmission pipelines and gas distribution lines. The framework includes the general management system components, as well as specific sections on implementation of a QMS for a pipeline construction project. The QMS framework and guidance document developed are intended to be used either as a stand-alone management system or as the quality component in a company’s corporate management system.

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