With Congressional support, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has developed and deployed a consensus-based, collaborative research, development and technology (RD&T) program that is bringing technology to market and is helping to strengthen pipeline integrity. This is in direct support of PHMSA’s safety, environmental and reliability mission with America’s pipeline infrastructure of more than 2.6M miles.
PHMSA’s Pipeline Safety RD&T Program was directed “to carry out a program of research, development, demonstration and standardization to ensure the integrity of pipeline facilities” by Congress in the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 and in subsequent Acts.
Please visit https://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/rd/index.htm for more general information about the PHMSA program.
The goals for transferring research results to the market are shown in Table 1 and based on the short-term deployment program focus directed by the Congress. These areas are formulated after conducting program and project level logic modeling that considered research inputs, outputs, impacts and stakeholders reached. The three areas in Table 1 were determined by the logic modeling as the most appropriate and attainable for the sustainable data gathering used to report the performance metrics described in this plan.
Strengthening Consensus Standards
Fostering the development of new technologies so that pipeline operators can improve safety performance and more effectively address regulatory requirements.
Targeting and feeding new knowledge into the process of keeping standards relevant to their purpose.
Generating and promoting general knowledge to decision makers.
A five step process depicted in Figure 1 was developed after conducting the program logic modeling that systematically considers the transfer of research results to identified end users (who are regulators, pipeline operators, service providers, standards developing organizations and the general public). This process governs the program execution and factors tech transfer considerations (described later) in each step. PHMSA believes that systematic consideration of tech transfer raises the likelihood that each research project will transfer its results to the market or to identified end users.
More information on the overall process can be found on the program website (https://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/rd/evaluation.htm ).
PHMSA’s Pipeline Safety RD&T Program utilizes 17 different research performance metrics to illustrate program effectiveness and impact in support of the PHMSA pipeline mission. The process described in Figure 1 provided the bases for the following three technology transfer areas. Results of each area are listed below.
Fostering Development of New Technologies
Strengthening Regulatory Requirements and Consensus Standards
Promoting Knowledge for Decision Makers
The program conducts real-time, annual and periodic data calls, as needed, to improve the level and quality of these performance metrics. The above information is reported as of August 2012 and since the program’s modern inception in 2002. The data can be broken out into CY or FY reporting by request.
PHMSA reports retrospectively since there is no true way to predict technology transfer in the future. For example, PHMSA can report that a project developing a new technology is scheduled to conclude on a future date but cannot predict or guarantee that the technology under development will be commercialized on that date. Some projects require future phases of research work or in-field demonstrations to facilitate the technology transfer. In other cases additional time is necessary to resolve Intellectual Property requirements to facilitate the technology transfer. Reporting annual future targets may provide erroneous information because actual results may never match with targeted dates. To overcome this challenge, PHMSA annually re-visits research project team members to inquire whether the status has changed and that the solution is now in the market. This process supports the various metrics used.
Please visit https://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/rd/performance.htm for much more information within PHMSA’s pipeline technology transfer goals and related investments.
PHMSA has many considerations for each goal area and utilizes its contractual authorities as much as possible within the process depicted in Figure 1 to maximize the likelihood that research results will transfer to the market. In addition and in general PHMSA believes following these three rules of thumb can improve the chances of success with transferring research results into the market.
Rule No. 1—Plan for technology transfer while identifying the right research priorities.
Rule No. 2—Involve end users (Examples are regulators, pipeline operators & service providers) into the research gap analysis and road mapping activities.
Rule No. 3—Utilize technology demonstrations in front of potential service providers and other end users to qualify/quantify technology readiness.
These three rules are applied where applicable within the tech transfer goals and throughout the program process execution.
While fostering the development of new or improved technologies PHMSA utilizes technology demonstrations as a means of evaluating the merit of technologies that are reaching the prototype stage. Demonstrations expose the technologies to the environment where the technology must be operated successfully. Demonstrations also promote the deployment and utilization of new technologies through observations and participation by pipeline operators, equipment vendors, standards organizations, and pipeline safety officials. Demonstrations are just one stage in a technology transfer process but can be considered a major milestone for achieving an ultimate research goal.
Technology development for PHMSA occurs within a deployment mentality as directed by the Congress. PHMSA investment continues beyond proof of concept and concludes when the pre-commercial technology is effectively demonstrated in the intended operating environment. At that point, the Federal Government’s funding is stopped and industry funding continues developing and deploying the technology towards a commercialized technology Figure 2 depicts the readiness level for most technology development projects and factors several issues for consideration.
Many regulators, including PHMSA, incorporate consensus standards into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The goals of incorporation are to strengthen and streamline the code, be less prescriptive, be consistent with federal guidance and promote performance to drive how regulations are met. National consensus standards carry the weight of law when incorporated by reference into the CFR. Consensus Standards constantly need new scientific information and knowledge to be effective and relevant. They are continually reviewed and upgraded by committees of engineers and other technical experts. The intent is to ensure standards support the safe design, construction, operation, maintenance and repair of pipelines.
Research targeting consensus standards provides new knowledge needed to keep standards current and relevant to their intended purposes. The PHMSA program is funding research to strengthen consensus standards and expand their applicability. Significant time and resources are spent reaching agreement on a research strategy at R&D Forums and other public events. It’s imperative that knowledge from the research is transferred to Standards Developing Organizations. PHMSA is working to transfer the research benefit of projects addressing standards while providing knowledge transfer to the standards-development process.
To ensure success with this research program objective, PHMSA and the Pipeline Standards-Developing Organizations Coordinating Council executed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The MOA is improving cooperation and coordination between the Parties to simplify a more effective and efficient integration of pipeline safety research and development results into the development and revision of voluntary consensus technical standards. The systematic process described in the MOA is critical to ensure knowledge from pipeline safety research is transferred to end users.
Research can generate an enormous amount of knowledge. The challenge is putting this knowledge into the hands of decision makers who can use it. Knowledge not transferred is wasteful, and can set back progress toward overcoming challenges.
PHMSA provides general knowledge to decision makers. PHMSA categorizes general knowledge as research focused on the feasibility of an emerging issue, parametric studies to pull known knowledge into a single comprehensive report and work addressing issues tied to no known industry consensus standards.
Agreement is reached at collaborative events such as R&D Forums about what general knowledge research is required. Diverse merit review panels review proposed research and recommend projects for award.
Through funding agreements, PHMSA mandates several actions that the researcher must take to promote project results. This is our approach for all PHMSA R&D awards (technology / standards / general knowledge). The following are examples of how all awarded research is promoted to decision makers.
It should be noted that PHMSA participates in the Department’s Small Business and Innovative Research (SBIR) Program (http://osdbuweb.dot.gov/Procurement/sbir.cfm). All SBIR Phase I efforts are classified as general knowledge by the PHMSA program even though these efforts address technology development. It is only within a Phase II or III effort that PHMSA would categorize the investment as developing technology. PHMSA’s participation in the SBIR program has identified several Small Business research teams who later compete in PHMSA’s Broad Agency Announcements. This action resulted in the Small Business research team successfully commercializing new technologies.