Pipeline Inspector Job Description
Working mostly for utilities companies in the oil and gas industries, pipeline inspectors oversee the professionals who construct and maintain pipeline systems. They also check these systems for potential problems. Working with a construction crew and other engineers, they examine pipeline systems for faults such as leaks and corrosion, make suggestions to improve systems, and monitor the construction crew to ensure their safety and improve their quality of work. Pipeline inspectors do physical work outdoors that requires strong computer skills, adherence to detailed engineering practices, and an understanding of the ins and outs of pipeline systems. This role can require long hours with some night and weekend shifts.
Pipeline Inspector Duties and Responsibilities
While a pipeline inspector’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:
Check Pipelines for Damage
Pipeline inspectors use tools like cameras, X-rays, and robotic crawlers to look for potential leaks, corrosion, and structural failures that need repair. They also use data obtained from pipeline inspection software to get a more detailed analysis of the pipeline’s condition.
Oversee Pipeline Construction
As the construction team constructs or makes changes to a pipeline, pipeline inspectors perform measurements to make sure that the trench depth is appropriate and that the pipeline system has proper alignment. They advise the construction team about necessary changes and issues and also give job assignments.
Plan Repairs and Maintenance
Collaborating with the construction team, pipeline inspectors use the findings from their inspections to explain possible causes of damage and integrity issues. They then plan how to best repair and maintain the pipeline system while considering possible hazards and industry regulations.
Assess Adherence to Safety Guidelines
An important part of a pipeline inspector’s job is to ensure safe working conditions at the site by checking that all work meets industry guidelines for safety and performance. In addition to understanding pipeline industry standards and OSHA guidelines, pipeline inspectors also understand mitigation techniques and emergency response procedures.
To share information with team members, contractors, and public officials, pipeline inspectors create logs recording their inspections, addressing problems with the pipeline, and detailing plans for repair and maintenance. In addition, they may file accident, expense, travel, and job order completion reports.
Pipeline Inspector Skills and Qualifications
Pipeline inspectors should have a technical background in engineering and the ability to work outside in all weather conditions. In addition to preferring candidates with an engineering technology degree and at least a year of experience working with pipelines, employers look for candidates who have these skills:
- Understanding of pipeline systems – pipeline inspectors need to know how engineers design, construct, and maintain pipelines. This includes understanding the materials, components, calculations, guidelines, and processes used
- Familiarity with inspection techniques – pipeline inspectors use inspection techniques to identify corrosion, analyze materials, measure trench depth, check temperatures, and find leaks
- Physical fitness – bending, climbing, lifting, and crawling in tight spaces make pipeline inspection a physically demanding role
- Communication skills – since they often write reports about their findings and communicate problems to other team members, pipeline inspectors need good writing and speaking skills
- Attention to detail – while conducting investigations and analyzing output from tools and computer software, pipeline inspectors use their attention to detail to spot problems with the pipeline’s structure or materials
Tools of the Trade
Pipeline inspectors use these tools and applications:
- Measurement tools (thermometers, psychrometers, probes, depth gauges)
- Pipeline inspection software (ITpipes, PipeLogix, MuniXS)
Pipeline Inspector Education and Training
Although some employers hire pipeline inspectors with high school diplomas and offer extensive on-the-job training, they often prefer candidates with an understanding of pipeline systems, welding, and structural inspection. To meet this requirement, aspiring pipeline inspectors can earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in engineering technology or a similar area. These programs cover topics such as physics, chemistry, analytical geometry, engineering computer applications, thermodynamics, and mechanics. Some employers also require welding and plastic fusion certifications, which require additional training and are available through organizations like the American Welding Society and Ferguson Enterprises.
Pipeline Inspector Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places pipeline inspectors in its category for construction and building inspectors, and reports a median yearly salary of about $59,000. The 10th percentile earns about $35,200, while the highest-paid workers make over $95,300. Firms employing pipeline inspectors usually offer additional benefits like insurance, retirement plans, paid holidays, and vacation time.
Faster-than-average employment growth of 10 percent is expected for pipeline inspectors through 2026, according to the BLS. Increased focus on improving the quality of structures drives this growth.
If you’re interested in starting a career as a pipeline inspector, we’ve collected some useful resources worth exploring:
The American Petroleum Institute – in addition to providing news and information about developments and regulations in the oil and gas industries, API holds events and offers certification programs for experienced professionals
Oil and Gas Pipelines and Piping Systems: Design, Construction, Management, and Inspection – author Alireza Bahadori uses his academic background and two-plus decades of experience in chemical and petroleum engineering to explain how to design, implement, manage, and inspect pipelines
U.S. Oil & Gas Association – this trade association keeps members informed of industry news, lets them give feedback on policy issues, and hosts forums and meetings for oil and gas professionals
Oil & Gas Pipelines in Nontechnical Language – designed for students and professionals just joining the field, this guide teaches the basics of pipeline infrastructure without using confusing technical language. It uses supplementary graphics to give overviews of how pipelines work, how to inspect and maintain them, and what components make up a pipeline
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