Bill Allowing Drones to Inspect Oil, Gas Infrastructure Passes Senate

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SNL Daily Gas Report

April 22, 2016

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill would let the oil and gas industry use drones to monitor refineries, pipelines and other critical facilities.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016, S. 2658, passed the Senate 95-3. Among provisions for pilots, planes and airports, an amendment by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., would direct the FAA to establish rules to allow the operators of critical infrastructure to use unmanned aircraft systems to help comply with federal regulations and to respond to natural disasters.

The American Petroleum Institute applauded the passage of the bill and the Inhofe provision in particular. "Protecting the public and the environment is our industry's top priority," API Midstream Director Robin Rorick said in an April 19 statement. "Our number one goal is zero incidents, and we are always looking for new tools to achieve that goal. The use of unmanned aerial system technologies will give us another means to safely conduct preventative inspections and response activities."

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America also welcomed the rules.

"The natural gas pipeline industry is always seeking new safety-related technologies, and small unmanned aircraft offer an excellent option," Martin Edwards, INGAA's vice president of legislative affairs, said in a statement released by Inhofe's office. "These tools can be used for pipeline right of way inspections, surveys, and emergency response. The end result is more effective and efficient pipeline safety programs."

Director Ann Miles of FERC's Office of Energy Projects told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Feb. 2 that drones, aircraft and satellites could be a useful tool for developing pipeline routes and making initial assessments of the environment.

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