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Latest News Prevent Major Catastrophe With Underground Marking Tape
Prevent Major Catastrophe With Underground Marking Tape

Prevent Major Catastrophe With Underground Marking Tape

Digging is dangerous. While all underground services are vulnerable to excavation and related service interruptions, the stakes are never higher than oil and gas companies.

Every day pipelines transport huge volumes of crude oil, oil derivatives, natural gas, and other hazardous substances. The reliable delivery of those substances is critical for meeting energy, industrial, and residential needs—but one bad dig can interrupt these critical flows, resulting in damage, destruction, and death. External interference, such as digging, is a leading cause of pipeline accidents.

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), excavation damage accounted for 23% of serious incident breakdowns over the ten-year period, 2007-2016.


In addition, Oil & Gas Journal reports that mechanical damage is “the number-one cause of pipeline incidents reportable to the US Department of Transportation” and that this damage “accounts for at least one of every three pipe-related incidents in gas and liquid products pipelines.”

These incidents are typically caused by third-party encroachment or damage that occurs when earthmoving equipment strikes a pipe. When misguided or careless digging breaches an underground pipeline, the uncontrolled loss of the oil, gas, or other substances contained within can cause explosions, fires, environmental pollution, sickness, and loss of human life, culminating in an environmental disaster and significant property damage and costs to the pipeline owners.

The resulting damages can have a detrimental impact on the future right of way and result in expensive, ongoing litigation or rerouting. Pipeline operators and owners are responsible for ensuring safety throughout the entire life cycle of their systems. Responsible leaders in the oil and gas market know that prevention is key. A proper pipeline management system protects pipeline integrity and prevents errant dig-ins and ensuing disasters.

The Importance of Underground Marking Tape

Marking pipeline routes and related equipment is critical. Properly positioning and burying warning tape above underground pipelines is a straightforward way to prevent errant dig-ins and the ensuing disasters. A small investment in marking tape can effectively mitigate the significant costs associated with incident response, clean-up, and repairs claims for damages, lawsuits, operational disruptions or closures, and fallen share price.

Underground marking tape is buried above underground utility lines to warn workers to stop digging and help prevent risks such as dangerous digging, service interruptions, and repair expenses. Underground marking tape helps workers stay out of harm's way. Marking tape comes with printed messages for marking underground service lines like electric cables, water pipes, and gas pipelines.

Detectable vs Non-Detectable Tape

Underground marking tape is made out of polyethylene and there are detectable and non-detectable options available.

Detectable tape is used to locate underground utility lines. The aluminum in the film helps with tape location.

Non-detectable tape locates underground utility lines and prevents damage to valuable installations.

The type of tape you choose depends on the type of job that needs to be performed. In addition to the two types of tape,  marking tape is printed in varying colors to convey the type of utility line that is buried underground.

Underground marking tape conforms to the American Public Works Association (APWA) standards for warning tapes.

  • Red- cables, electric power lines, conduit
  • Pink- temporary survey markings
  • Orange- communication, signal lines conduit, alarm
  • Yellow- steam, petroleum, gas, oil, gaseous substances
  • Purple- reclaimed water, slurry lines, irrigation
  • Blue- potable water
  • Green- drain lines and sewers

Companies sometimes offer options to customize messages on the tape and customize tape color. There are various properties one should look for when selecting the right underground marking tape. Plastic tapes that are extrusion laminated with pigmented plastic are better than an ink coating and should be available in standard APWA color codes. Tapes should also have maximum tensile strength, elongation properties, and puncture resistance.



Underground marking tape helps to avoid service interruptions and destruction. Underground warning tape comes in two options--detectable and non-detectable. These options are available in different colors that convey different messages. It is important to choose the right marking tape as it allows you to avoid costly and potentially dangerous problems.