Unmanned Aircraft Assist in Hurricane Harvey Response

Like a vast majority of Texas residents, businesses, and communities, Marathon Pipe Line LLC (MPL) felt the wrath of Hurricane Harvey. And like many Americans, we kept our eyes on our Texas family – our employees, their families and our neighbors – to make sure that they were safe.  Once assured of that, we turned our eyes to our critical infrastructure to ensure that it was safe as well. For the first time in a hurricane response, our eyes included the use of unmanned aircraft, sometimes called drones, to help assess damage and inspect our pipelines.

MPL’s pipelines lay in the areas south of Houston stretching from Galveston Bay northward to Pasadena and Mont Belvieu. Our hurricane response efforts focused on four pipelines critical to our Galveston Bay and Texas City Refineries’ operations. With the use of both drones and manned aircraft, we completed the inspections of nearly 100 miles of pipeline effectively and efficiently. These inspections helped us identify areas of high water, soil erosion and washouts as well as look for damage to infrastructure. This quick response enabled us to ensure continued public safety and confirm the integrity of our assets. You can watch a video of an unmanned aircraft inspection here.

MPL’s unmanned aircraft program helps us expand our approach to right-of-way inspection, maintenance and emergency response.  We see unmanned aircraft technology as another versatile tool to supplement and enhance traditional methods for many operations, maintenance and emergency response tasks.