Danger to buried oil pipelines when ditching & fencing

Landowners looking to undertake ditching or fencing works need to be aware that the UK has an extensive network of pipelines that bisect the country, transporting oil, gas and chemical products across country and through suburban areas.

The buried pipelines operate at high pressure (up to 50 times that of a car tyre) and are often only at a nominal depth of only one metre.  Due to the flammable, and potentially hazardous nature of the products contained, anyone proposing fencing or ditching works near to a pipeline needs to be aware of the potential dangers, what to do and who to contact before commencing works.

The BPA Lands team is here to help and are here to support landowners, contractors or others when working near to BPA’s buried pipelines by providing information and resource at no cost.  With the right information and advice, we hope to reduce the risk of a serious incident on the pipeline network that we manage.

However to ensure the best and safest outcomes for all we ask that those who are looking to undertake any works within three metres of a buried BPA pipeline to:

  1. Please give a minimum of 7 days notice before works begin. This will ensure we can fully support you with your proposed activities.
  2. Never assume you can go ahead unless consent is given. BPA’s team will be on hand to support your work, however, works should not begin until permission is granted.
  3. Be aware pipeline depths vary under ditches and are not always protected with slabs. Be aware that pipeline depths vary across the country and can often be found only a metre below the surface, they are also seldom protected with concrete slabs.
  4. Seek advice as pipelines do not always run in straight lines between marker posts. Although posts are used to mark the location of a pipeline at a field boundary, not all pipelines run in straight lines between posts. We’re here to help mark out the exact location.
  5. Be aware that other infrastructure, such as cables, can be buried shallower than the pipeline. Often there are other potentially hazardous or safety critical infrastructure buried along the pipeline lengths, these can be found at even shallower depth to the pipeline.

Please be aware that it’s also the landowner’s responsibility to ensure that contractors operating on their land comply with regulations.  Working near pipelines without taking the correct precautions can have serious consequences.

If there is any doubt, please contact a member of the BPA lands team on freephone 0800 585 387.


BPA supporting UKOPA

The team at BPA was delighted to be involved in supporting our colleagues from the United Kingdom Onshore Pipeline Operators Association (UKOPA) with their latest video to help raise awareness of the pipeline amongst both landowners and contractors.

UKOPA is the authoritative industry body behind the essential energy pipeline infrastructure. The UK’s 27,000km pipeline network provides the safest and most efficient means of transporting a range of hazardous fluids, and pipeline operators are constantly working to improve safety and protect the environment.  The organisation, established in 1996, has brought operators together and helped them engage more effectively with each other, as well as with regulators and other key stakeholders.

The filming took place just outside of Milton Keynes where BPA’s lands team are involved in supporting landowners, contractors and local authorities during the development of the site into a multifunctional space for schools, housing and commercial buildings.

BPA’s lands team helped supervise ground works by marking out the pipeline for contractors and also being on hand while excavation work was carried out to ensure the pipeline was protected at all times.  The works were recorded and will be shared with other landowners and contractors looking to carry our similar works.

The video aims to help prevent damage to pipelines as this can have serious consequences including: environmental damage if product was to leak into the soil, water or atmosphere; financial penalty as any repairs or subsequent clean-ups costs can run into the millions as well as potential prosecution under The Pipeline Safety Regulations 1996 – which states that no person shall cause such damage to a pipeline as may give rise to a danger to persons.

Perhaps the most important reason for contacting BPA in advance of any works near to the pipeline are the risks of injury or even death caused by damaging the pipeline.  Should there be an incident, those commissioning the works (or their contractor) are responsible for any liability under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.  The video aims to highlight these issues amongst landowners and contractors.

BPA’s lands team is on hand to support landowners or contractors who are planning to work anywhere near our pipelines.  Please call BPA free on 0800 585 387 and we will come and locate the pipeline, provide advice and ensure your safety.

CIPS Survey clearance

BPA’s lands team is undertaking a programme of scrub clearance works at more than 60 sites along the route of the buried high-pressure oil pipelines that BPA manages in the UK.

The scrub clearance is in preparation for a new CIPs survey which is scheduled to start in October and run until the end of November 2020.   The work will take place on the LAP pipeline that feeds Heathrow Airport, the buried pipeline that runs between the Thames Pump Station and the Epping Pump Station and also the buried high-pressure oil pipeline that runs between the Blisworth Pump Station and the Oil Storage Terminal at Kingsbury.

A CIPS survey is sometimes referred to as Close Interval Survey, which is an above ground, non-intrusive survey, used to accurately determine the effectiveness of the cathodic protection system along the pipelines.  The survey helps ensure that the integrity of the pipeline remains protected from corrosion.

The pipe-to-soil readings are measured at test points typically installed at 1 to 2 kilometre intervals along the pipeline route, however these measurements do not accurately reflect the pipe-to-soil potentials between test points.

To overcome this, a close interval potential survey (CIPS) is undertaken, with pipe-to-soil potentials measured at nominal 2 metre intervals. The CIPS technique can be employed for both buried (onshore) and immersed (offshore) pipelines.

To allow BPA’s Lands team access to points on the ground above the buried pipelines a programme of scrub clearance is being undertaken at points where readings will be taken.  BPA will write to all affected landowners and tenants ahead of the survey. If you have any special access arrangements or any that may have changed please let us know.

The team at BPA will be wearing high-vis clothing and following all the correct procedures required for working near to buried pipelines.

Keep a watch out for the team and don’t forget to contact the BPA Lands Team if you see anything suspicious or any unusual activity along the buried pipeline network.  If in doubt, simply call us on 0800 585 387 and we will do the rest.


Suspicious van near buried oil pipelines

There are more than 27,000 Km of buried high-pressure oil, gas and chemical pipelines that run the length and breadth of the UK, transporting critical supplies safely, effectively and efficiently across the country.

Unfortunately, in some instances these buried oil or gas pipelines can attract criminal interest whether the illegal tapping of fuel or unauthorised digging near to a pipeline.

BPA works closely with its network of landowners to raise awareness of the issue and asks landowners or tenants to keep vigilant and report any suspicious activities.  This can include seeing suspicious vans parking close to the pipeline, non BPA staff or contractors taking interest in the pipeline route / marker posts, signs of excavations or trenches around the pipeline or the use of hydraulic hoses and storage containers in remote areas.

We ask that all landowners remain vigilant as to any unusual activity undertaken and inform us of any suspicious activities.  If in doubt, simply call us on 01827 63708 and we will do the rest.

To help us most effectively manage the call, we’d ask where possible that callers provide the following information:

  • A contact number should we need to get hold of you
  • The location of the incident – whether a postcode, address or grid reference or even the proximity to a landmark
  • Have the emergency services been contacted?
  • Has anyone been injured?
  • Is there any sign of smoke or fire?
  • Are there still suspicious people or vehicles in the area?
  • Is there a strong smell of fuel, gas or any obvious signs of oil or gas leaking?
  • Is the incident near to a watercourse or public highway?

Even if you’re unable to answer all of the above, please still contact BPA and let us know of any concerns.

Our dedicated helpline number 0800 585 387 that is operated 24/7, 365 days of the year to support landowners or occupiers in the event of a pipeline emergency.  The team has a well-developed, regularly tested, emergency response process and is supported by retained specialist contractors that are in regular contact with the emergency services and regulatory bodies.

Once contacted by a landowner, our duty officer will process the information, provide advice and if necessary contact the emergency services.  The team will also undertake a site visit as well as manage and monitor the situation if required.

Thank you for remaining vigilant and please contact BPA’s Lands team on 0800 585 387 if you have any questions or would like to inform us of any suspicious or unusual activities along our pipeline network.

Buried Pipelines

Not taking the correct precautions when working near to BPA’s buried pipelines can have serious consequences.

BPA is however here to help by raising awareness of the issues and providing information and resource at no cost to those working in the vicinity of the buried pipelines.  With the right information and advice, we hope to reduce the risk of a serious incident on the pipelines that we manage.

The buried pipelines carry large volumes of highly flammable petroleum or natural gas products at very high pressure.  BPA’s land team supports landowners across the country by providing advice and support should works need to be carried out near to BPA’s buried pipelines.

The Pipeline Safety Regulations 1996 states that no person shall cause such damage to a pipeline as may give rise to a danger to persons.  Breaking these conditions can lead to prosecution, injury or even death as well as potentially some significant environmental damage.

If damage occurs to a buried pipeline, those commissioning the works (or their contractor) are responsible for any liability under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.  Additionally, should there be any environmental damage, landowners may face prosecution by the Environment Agency as damage to a pipeline can cause serious pollution of soil, water and the atmosphere which is likely to lead to prosecution.

As well as potential prosecution or environmental damage, landowners could face a significant financial penalty as the repair and subsequent clean-up costs of a pipeline incident are typically in the region of £10m.

BPA is empowered to stop all works near the pipeline if it is considered to be unsafe to the pipeline.  The team is however on hand to offer free consultations over the phone or visit the site to help provide support and advice to those looking to operate near to the pipeline network.

Don’t risk damaging a buried pipeline.  Contact a member of BPA’s lands team if you are considering undertaking works near to BPA’s buried pipeline network.

Buried pipelines

The fine spring weather is allowing farmers to get groundwork underway during one of the busiest times of the year and while ploughing and sowing are happening at full pelt as well as regular maintenance work such as ditch clearing and fencing, farmers and landowners must always be aware of the hazards associated with damaging buried pipelines.

Many pipelines carrying highly flammable products are less than one metre from the surface and if no care is taken can be damaged by invasive farm machinery. Holing a pipeline can result in injury, death or significant environmental damage including pollution of soil, water and the atmosphere. Typical costs of repairing and cleaning up following an incident can run into the millions of pounds.

British Pipeline Agency Ltd (BPA)

BPA distributes highly flammable fuels via more than 1,000km of buried high-pressure fuel pipelines across the UK.  If you are in any doubt about the location of a pipeline beneath your land, contact BPA and we will come and locate the pipeline and give advice to ensure the safety of those working close to the line.  Our `Know what’s Below’ campaign aims to give advice and inform farmers and landowners about their responsibilities.

BPA advice:

If you’re planning on working near a pipeline, we are asking farmers, landowners or contractors to contact BPA in advance of any work being undertaken.  Please also contact BPA’s Lands Team if the line is not clearly marked and we will be happy to arrange for a free site visit to help detail the pipeline’s route.  BPA’s Lands Team is typically able to visit a site within seven days of a request.  We would also ask all landowners to inform third parties or contractors of the pipeline and the precautions that are required if working in its vicinity.

Please don’t just assume it’s ok to drill or dig near a pipeline or to clean ditches with mechanical diggers without speaking to BPA first.  Using use heavy machinery close to a pipeline, erecting fences across a pipeline or installing or repairing land drainage networks near to the pipeline requires prior notice and authorisation.

Please also be aware of any suspicious activities near to the pipeline network and contact a member of BPA’s lands team if you have concerns.  We are here and ready to help, so if you are thinking of undertaking work near to a pipeline, call BPA free on 0800 585 387 and if necessary a team member will come out for a free site visit and give advice.

Thank you for your continued support.

Buried pipelines - know what's below

BPA’s Landowner Services team is asking landowners to be aware of buried pipelines before clearing ditches.  The company has launched its Know What’s Below campaign by writing to nearly 2000 landowners and tenants along BPA’s 1000km buried pipeline network in the UK in advance of the regular ‘ditch clearing’ season.

This time of year is particularly important, as farmers typically clear ditches in early Spring.  Keeping watercourses well maintained benefits the community as a whole, particularly if an area experiences flooding.  Poorly maintained watercourses can be a nuisance to the community, can restrict access to property and can result in considerable expense and inconvenience for those that have been flooded. The weather over the winter of 2019/20 has highlighted the issues of how important watercourse maintenance can be to keep our drainage systems working properly.

Cleaning ditches with an excavator or other mechanical equipment can however pose a threat to the buried high-pressure pipelines if not undertaken correctly.  BPA is asking farmers or other landowners who are needing to operate in the vicinity of the buried high-pressure pipelines to contact them in advance of starting any works.

The aim of the ‘Know What’s Below’ campaign is to target landowners and tenants and inform them of the processes to follow if they are planning to work near to the buried network of high-pressure oil pipelines.

As well as asking for up to date details of the landowner, the letter provides information on who landowners need to contact, and what to do, if they are required to operate in the vicinity of one of the high-pressure fuel pipelines.  The letter also advises that BPA’s Landowner Services team are on hand to provide advice and even attend the site to mark out the pipeline’s route.

Please contact BPA’s Landowner Services team if you are planning on clearing ditches or undertaking any  keep a look out for the letter and be sure to promptly return it to the BPA team.

Know What's Below letters

BPA has launched its ‘Know What’s Below’ campaign a little earlier than in previous years to specifically target landowners in advance of the regular ditch clearing season.

BPA’s Landowner Services team has issued letters to nearly 2000 landowner and tenants along BPA’s 1000km of buried high pressure pipelines in the UK.

The letters ask all landowners or tenants to respond using the enclosed form and self-addressed envelope so that BPA can ensure that their records are up to date and that they have the correct details should we need to contact landowners in the event of an emergency or planned works.

The letter also provides information on who landowners need to contact, and what to do, if they are required to operate in the vicinity of one of the high-pressure fuel pipelines.

Respond by end of March

Those who respond to the request and return their completed forms in the self-addressed envelope by the end of March will automatically be entered into a prize draw to receive one of five luxurious hampers.

Please keep a look out for BPA’s ‘Know What’s Below’ campaign letters and ensure that you promptly return them to a member of the BPA Landowner Services team.  Contact the team for further information.



Know What's Below hamper

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Know What’s Below hamper draw.  The winners were selected at random from the hundreds of landowners and tenants who confirmed their contact details and returned their pipeline map to BPA.

This year’s luck winners are Ms K. Charlesworth from Nantwich, Mrs H. McBreen from Woolscott, Mrs J. Rawding from Marsworth, Mr R. Daniell from Betchworth and Mr N. How from Hargrave in Northamptonshire.

Each has received a stunning ‘Taste of Christmas’ hamper filled to the brim with everyone’s favourite festive flavours.  The £100 hamper included a range of goodies from indulgent snacks and treats to bottles of red wine, white wine and Prosecco.  The recipients were presented with their hampers by members of BPA’s lands team.

Know What’s Below

As part of its Know What’s Below campaign, each year BPA writes to the landowners along its pipeline network to remind them of the high-pressure oil pipeline that runs under their land, what to do if they need to undertake groundworks in the vicinity of the pipeline and to check that they are still responsible for the land.  Everyone who returns the map, confirming their details is entered into the prize draw.

Phil Taylor, Lands Manager at BPA, comments: “We write to the landowners along the pipeline network to remind them of the high-pressure oil pipeline that run under their land and to confirm that we have their correct contact details.  Those who respond are automatically entered into the draw and it’s great to be able to reward these lucky landowners in this way.”

Letters are sent to more than 2000 recipients along the BPA pipeline network as part of the company’s “Know What’s Below” campaign.  The campaign aims to reduce the number of incidents, accidents and spills along the pipeline network.  Landowners are encouraged to contact BPA’s Lands Team with any questions or concerns they may have regarding the pipelines on 0800 585 387.

Know what's below

As part of our ‘Know What’s Below’ campaign to communicate with landowners to ensure they inform us of any changes to landownership or plans to operate in the vicinity of pipelines, we trialled contacting landowners via SMS.

Despite the record responses to our annual letter, some landowners either lost their letters or were too busy to use the self-addressed response envelope.  To offer landowners an easy and convenient way of responding we thought it may work if we sent a text message to the contacts that we have not heard back from.

Of our target list of nearly 300 landowners we sent a simple message asking landowners to reply ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ to whether the information they had received from BPA was correct or not.  The response rates were very positive more than a quarter deciding to respond in this way.  Our records were updated to reflect those who responded ‘correct’ and while those who replied ‘incorrect’ were contacted by the team and their details were amended.

All recipients were given the option to opt out of the messaging, however the positive response rates showed that this harder to reach group welcomed the opportunity to respond in this way.

If you have any comments regarding our communications, please contact the team by using the email link below.