Environmental Risk

Severe Weather Imperils Fuel Pipelines

Severe weather incidents are increasing pipeline loss frequency, especially in places where environmental risk was not previously a problem.
By: | April 3, 2017 • 3 min read

April showers bring peril to pipelines.

The hurricane season does not start officially until June 1, but spring rains and snowmelt highlight the growing peril to the aging energy infrastructure in the U.S. from severe weather. In most cases the leaks are small and contained locally, but underwriters see the emerging risk as one of frequency as much as severity.

In late October, the Associated Press reported that a “freak storm” around Williamsport, Pa., “caused a Sunoco Logistics gasoline pipeline to rupture, spilling an estimated 54,600 gallons into a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek that flows into the Susquehanna River at Montoursville.

John O’Brien, energy practice leader, Ironshore

The storm dumped as much as seven inches of rain on Western and Central Pennsylvania, triggering mudslides, turning roads into rivers and sweeping away at least two homes.

“The energy industry has environmental risks because their assets are set in places that have exposed named perils,” said John O’Brien, energy practice leader at underwriters Ironshore.

“These perils are not new. What is new is the greater awareness of weather events. Pipeline losses in particular seem to have greater frequencies. At least they are being reported more frequently and the losses seem to be bigger.”

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O’Brien noted that weather is not the only variable in the equation.

“Part of the perception is that there is more material in storage than ever. Both crude oil and refined products. The tanks and terminals are full. Storage capacity is at an all time high.” When weather comes in, it takes longer to drain tanks, and fewer options on where to put displaced material.

“Pipeline people understand the issues,” said O’Brien. “In the past they mostly focused on system integrity [from an operational and maintenance perspective]. Now issues like ground subsidence are being discussed more and more. There is definitely heightened awareness.”

Marcel Ricciardelli, senior vice president, environmental division, Allied World, corroborated that, “yes, the experts in weather tell us that, yes, we are in a cycle of more, and more severe weather incidents. And that has affected our industry and the industries we cover.”

“When much of the energy infrastructure now in place was installed, that was based on past weather incidents and experience to that time. As a result, today, we are not just seeing more and more severe incidents; we are seeing severity in new regions.”

Marcel Ricciardelli, Senior Vice President, Environmental Division, Allied World

That has led to some underwriters changing the way they run their business from underwriting to capacity deployment.

“The property and casualty guys can give you a thesis on this,” said Ricciardelli. “On the environmental side things are more nuanced. I can tell you some of the things we are starting to look more at are things like above-ground tanks that are below grade, such as in a parking structure.

“We are alert to concentrations of things like that in urban areas. That goes for smaller tanks to larger bulk storage. Overall there are clearly shifting considerations for our industry.”

“One of the best things about environmental coverage is that it includes recovery services.” — Marcel Ricciardelli, senior vice president, environmental division, Allied World

Traditionally property policies do not include much environmental coverage, Ricciardelli explained. “Environmental tends to come in at two spots: a time element within the casualty tower, and also within pollution. For those, the event is not really the issue. The trigger is simply a release.”

After a release from any cause, Ricciardelli added that “the most important thing is access for recovery. If the release was caused by a mudslide from heavy rains, is there flooding? Is the area stable enough to begin recovery? Or was the landslide from seismic activity?

“One of the best things about environmental coverage is that it includes recovery services. Most of the big pipelines have their own, but for smaller operators the access to equipment and expertise is important.”

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Recovery assets and preparation brings Ricciardelli back to the challenge of worse weather in new places. “There are landfills that were sited in places that were considered safe and are now flood zones.”

There are also environmental hazards that are not weather-related. Earthquakes associated with underground injection of wastewater have been a serious concern.

“The attention has been on homes and buildings with cracks,” said Ricciardelli, “but this comes back on the energy industry. There are pipelines and storage terminals in places like Oklahoma that have documented increased seismicity, and those facilities are not built to withstand earthquakes.”

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Wawa’s Director of Risk Management knows that harnessing data and analytics will be key to surviving the rapid pace of change that heralds new risk exposures.
By: | July 27, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first job was at the age of 15 as a cashier at a bakery. My first professional job was at Amtrak in the finance department. I worked there while I was in college.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

A position opened up in risk management at Wawa and I saw it as an opportunity to broaden my skills and have the ability to work across many departments at Wawa to better learn about the business.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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The advancements in analytics are a success for the industry and offer opportunities for the future. I also find value in the industry focus on emerging and specialty risks. There is more alignment with experts in different industries related to emerging and specialty risks to provide support and services to the insurance industry. As a result, the insurance industry can now look at risk mitigation more holistically and not just related to traditional risk transfer.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Developing the talent to grow with the industry in specialization and analytics, but to also carry on the personal connections and relationship building that is a large part of this industry.

Nancy Wilson, director, quality assurance, risk management and safety, Wawa Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

I have had successes at all of the RIMS events I have attended. It is a great opportunity to spend time with our broker, carriers and other colleagues.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

I think the biggest challenge facing most companies today is related to brand or reputational risk. With the ever-changing landscape of technology, globalization and social media, the risk exposure to an organization’s brand or reputation continues to grow.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

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The changing consumer demands and new entrants into an industry are concerning. This is not necessarily something new but the frequency and speed to which it happens today does seem to be different. I think that is only going to continue. Companies need to be prepared to evolve with the times, and for me that means new risk exposures that we need to be prepared to mitigate.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I try to be optimistic about most things. I think the economy ebbs and flows for many reasons and it is important to always keep an eye out for signs of change.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I am fortunate to have opportunities professionally that make me proud, but I have to answer this one personally. I have two children ages 12 and 9 and I am so proud of the people that they are today. They both are hardworking, fun and kind. Nothing gives me a better feeling than seeing them be successful. I look forward to more of that.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

This is really hard as there are too many favorites. I do prefer books to movies, especially if there is a movie based on a book. I find the movie is never as good. I have multiple books going at once and usually bounce back and forth between fiction and non-fiction.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

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I have eaten at a lot of different restaurants in many major cities but I would have to pick Horn O’ Plenty in Bedford, PA. It is a farm to table restaurant in the middle of the state. The food is always fresh and tastes amazing and they make me feel like I am at home when I am there. My family and I eat there often during our trips out that way.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

I do love a good cup of coffee (working at Wawa helps that). I also enjoy a good glass of wine (red preferably) on occasion.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

Vacations aside, I do get an opportunity to travel for work and visit our food suppliers. The opportunities I have had to visit back to the farm level have been a very interesting learning experience. If it wasn’t for my role, I would have never been able to experience that.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

My husband, kids and I recently did a boot-camp-type obstacle course up in the trees 24 feet in the air. Although I had a harness and helmet on, I really put my fear of heights to the test. At the end of the two hours, I did get the hang of it but am not sure I would do it again.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The first people that come to mind are those who are serving our country and willing to sacrifice their own lives for our freedom.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Every day is different and I have the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different work across the company.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My husband and children have a pretty good sense of what I do, but the rest of my family has no idea. They just know I work for Wawa and sometimes travel.




Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]