Veteran PVFers have spent most of their careers selling products that were out of sight and mind of the general public. Not anymore. BP’s Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, the deadly natural gas line explosion in residential San Bruno, CA, last month, along with significant crude oil pipeline spills in Michigan last July and just outside of Chicago in September have familiarized a large segment of the American population with the workings of your products and their hazards.

Many news stories drew attention to our nation’s aging natural gas pipelines, a big eyebrow raiser. According to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the U.S. has more than 2 million miles of natural gas pipelines - enough to circle the earth about 100 times, and more than 60% of those gas transmission lines are more than 40 years old. Some of the older versions are made of cast iron rather than steel. A few locales may even still have wooden gas lines.

Although steel pipe can be expected to last more than a half-century, that life span can be shortened by excessive corrosion or heavy equipment mishaps. Inspections and maintenance are often haphazard, and much institutional knowledge has disappeared with the passing of manufacturers, engineers, contractors, inspectors, etc., involved with the original projects.

Records should still exist, but remember, we’re talking about 2 million miles of natural gas lines. MTRs and maintenance records may not have survived for all of it, or may be gathering dust in obscure file cabinets. As was the case with the San Bruno tragedy, many housing and commercial developments have sprung up over formerly out-of-the-way pipelines.

Now for the good news. All those aging pipelines create an urgent need for OCTG and other PVF replacement products. How to pay for it all is a raging question, of course.

One thing’s for sure: quality control is more important than ever in the PVF industry.