Pipeline FAQ


I am new to operator qualification and I need as much information as I can find.

Download the Pipeline Training and Assessment Program Guide (PTAP) for specifics on the development and operation of the OQ program: Pipeline Training & Assessment Program (PTAP) March 2015.pdf

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What is operator qualification (OQ)?

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), through regulations 49 CFR Part 192 (gas) and Part 195 (liquid), requires pipeline operators to establish plans to ensure that all workers who perform covered tasks, as defined by federal regulations, on their pipelines are qualified and able to recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions.

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Who is regulated under operator qualification (OQ)?

All workers who perform covered tasks on a pipeline including pipeline operator employees, contractor employees and subcontractor employees are regulated under the OQ rule. 

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When did operator qualification go into effect?

All workers performing covered tasks on a pipeline after October 28, 2002 had to have been qualified under the OQ rule.

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What is NCCER’s Pipeline Training and Assessment Program (PTAP)?

NCCER’s Pipeline Training and Assessment Program (PTAP) is designed to assist operators and contractors in obtaining proper training and qualification under the OQ rule. PTAP includes:

  • Written Skills Assessments
  • Performance Verifications
  • Curricula

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Who developed PTAP?

The American Petroleum Institute (API), in concert with the previous Consortium on Operator Qualification (COOQ), developed a relationship with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) to develop the Pipeline Training and Assessment Program (PTAP).

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What is American Petroleum Institute's (API) covered task list?

These are the tasks defined as meeting the regulation’s four-part rule as well as the OQ rule which requires that pipeline operators (not necessarily their contractors) develop a written qualification program to evaluate and document personnel and contractor ability to perform covered tasks and to recognize and respond to abnormal operating conditions that may be encountered while performing covered tasks. API developed the original covered task list as part of its Recommended Practice 1161 document in 2000.

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What is NCCER’s covered task list?

NCCER’s covered task list is largely based on API’s but there are some key differences, as follows:

NCCER’s covered task list is governed by its Pipeline Users Council, whose leadership is comprised of equal operator and contractor representation. NCCER’s covered task list represents the consensus position of the pipeline companies involved.  This means that:

  • Tasks other than those on API RP 1161 may be on NCCER’s covered task List (such as flange bolting and mud plugging);
  • Tasks deleted from API RP 1161 may still be on NCCER’s covered task list

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How can I compare NCCER’s covered task list with API’s?

NCCER offers a Covered Task Crosswalk between its own covered task list and API’s. To request a copy of the Covered Task Crosswalk, contact NCCER at 888-622-3720.

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Why are there now two NCCER covered task lists?

To stay current with industry practices and align to the revised API Recommended Practice 1161, NCCER is updating both its covered task list and OQ materials. Due to the extensive nature of changes to API’s covered tasks, which impact approximately 70 percent of NCCER’s covered task list, NCCER will maintain two covered task lists – Version 1.0 and Version 2.0 – throughout the update process.

NCCER’s Version 1.0 Covered Task List includes existing covered tasks and corresponding OQ materials, including curricula, written assessments and Performance Verifications. As new OQ materials become available for new covered tasks, they will be published on NCCER’s Version 2.0 Covered Task List. The older versions of these materials will still be available after the new OQ materials and covered tasks are announced.

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What if I’m unsure about what covered tasks are required?

Contact your pipeline operator(s) if you are unsure which covered tasks are required. Only pipeline operators can determine which covered tasks will be required of workers, contractors and subcontractors working on their pipelines.

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Which method of qualification under the PTAP system is acceptable under the operator qualification rule?

Contractors should talk with their pipeline operators to determine what methods of qualification will be acceptable under their Pipeline Operators Qualifications Program. Written examinations and observations (performance verifications) are acceptable means of qualifying workers under the operator qualification rule. PTAP offers several options for both written and performance testing. A pipeline technician could qualify using a written assessment or performance verification, or the curriculum module’s written and performance tests. These are all acceptable methods of qualification.

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When someone completes a curriculum module, does that mean that he or she is qualified under the operator qualification rule?

The pipeline operator will determine the specific methods of qualification that are acceptable under their OQ plan. When a technician successfully completes (passes written and performance tests) for a module that incorporates a covered task they will have met the criteria for one method of qualification.

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Where are assessment centers located?

A complete listing of NCCER’s training sponsors and accredited assessment centers is provided on our website at /center-search.aspx.

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Are assessments offered in computer-based format? If yes, is a proctor still required?

NCCER provides assessments in a computer-based format. Even with a computer/internet-based testing format, a proctor is still essential to ensuring the identity of the test-taker and the security of the assessment.

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Are written and performance tests both required to achieve operator qualification?

Pipeline operators set the requirements for OQ in their written program.  Some require only written covered tasks testing, while others require both written and performance testing. Check with your operator’s requirements.

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Most covered tasks for an employee fall under one curriculum for assessment purposes but a few are in another assessment. Must this employee take multiple assessments?

This question must be answered by the pipeline operator because of what they require in their written program. There are several possible solutions in addition to multiple assessments.

Take the written assessment and performance verification for the main curriculum and take the performance verification only for the remaining covered task(s).

Take the written and performance verification for the main curriculum and test-out on module tests (written and performance) for the remaining tasks.

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If the content of an assessment or a module changes due to new regulations or new technology, will NCCER notify the individual workers of the revision and the possible need to re-qualify?

As assessments and curricula are revised, the NCCER will widely publicize the revisions to pipeline operators, contractors and industry groups. The NCCER is unable to notify each individual worker so pipeline operators and contractors will be responsible for ensuring that workers are qualified under the current programs available.

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Where can I go to take training, written assessments or Performance Verifications for OQ?

Go to the “Find a Training or Assessment Center” search tool on NCCER's website and find a local accredited entity. Contact the local Accredited Training Sponsor or Accredited Assessment Center to determine what services are offered.  Keep in mind that some accredited entities may choose to conduct ONLY in-house training and assessments for their own employees and may not offer services to the general public. Those listed as “in-house” facilities on the NCCER website fall into that category.

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No Accredited entities in my area will provide the training, written assessments or the Performance Verifications. What do I do now?

You might try broadening your search for Accredited Training Sponsors and Accredited Assessment Centers to encompass neighboring states or cities (to find possible other locations offering OQ training or assessment). Alternatively, your company may apply for NCCER accreditation to conduct in-house training and assessment. Download and review the NCCER Accreditation Guidelines for more information on how to become an NCCER Accredited Training Sponsor or Assessment Center.

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What is NCCER’s role in the data flow process?

NCCER creates, revises, updates and maintains the curriculum and assessment tools that are used to qualify for Operator Qualification. NCCER also maintains a Pipeline User’s Council to help set future course in regards to the pipeline training and assessment process.
NCCER does not set OQ rules and regulations.

Once an NCCER curriculum training module completion or an assessment completion (written or performance) is submitted to NCCER (from an accredited entity), the data is processed into the NCCER Registry System, where it is then sent to ISNetworld for entry into the OQ verification database.  NCCER submits results to ISN through an exclusive data-sharing agreement. Data is typically viewable in ISN’s system within 24-48 hours after it is processed by NCCER.

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Do I have to take the assessment or complete a training module every three years to re-qualify for OQ?

NCCER has no such requirement but the operator requiring the OQ typically will subscribe to a three-year requalification. Contact the operator you are working for to determine their requirements. These may be listed at ISNetworld by the Operator.

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If I take an assessment more than once, which test score counts for OQ?

The operator requiring the OQ determines the acceptable written assessment criteria for the OQ. NCCER will post the score(s) in the Registry System and issue credentials based on the result(s) but does not favor one test over another.

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On a retake of the written assessment, can I be assessed only on the section(s) of the written assessment that I have not passed previously?

The written assessments must be taken in their entirety. Individuals cannot take “just the section” that was not passed previously. The only exception to that rule is the computer-based Custom Pipeline Maintenance Technician (PMT) assessment (this can be customized to the particular tasks you do and a unique test may be created that assesses a more focused set of tasks. Contact your local Accredited Assessment Center to see if they offer the Custom PMT). Look for more custom test options in the future for NCCER pipeline programs.

Remember that you may also qualify on individual covered tasks by completing the specific module of the NCCER curriculum (that applies to the particular covered task that you need) if the operator allows training module completions as an acceptable criteria for OQ. The criteria for qualification may be listed at ISNetworld by the operator.

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Who is ISN and how are they different from the NCCER Registry System?

ISNetworld is an online contractor and supplier management database. Owner clients evaluate their contractor and/or supplier’s information to meet internal and governmental requirements. ISNetworld Review and Verification Services (RAVS) validates this information. Additionally, Contractor and suppliers use the system to manage training and record-keeping requirements.

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I took an assessment, and I can see it in the NCCER Registry System, but it's not showing up in ISN Networld. Why not?

Typically, it takes 24-48 hours for any information to transfer over to ISNetworld once it is entered into the NCCER Registry System. If you took an assessment, these results are viewable in ISN’s system within 24-48 hours of the information being entered into the NCCER Registry System. If the record shows in the NCCER Registry System but not in ISNetworld after 48 hours, it could be that you or your company needs to set up your account with ISNetworld so that the information is received and appears correct. Contact ISNetworld to find out how your account is set up and what may need to be done to show the record.

If the record does not show in the NCCER Registry System nor ISNetworld, you will need to contact the accredited entity that conducted the testing and/or training to ensure that it was submitted to NCCER properly (correct name, Social Security number, etc).

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How can I help with revisions to the curriculum, assessments and Performance Verifications?

The most direct way to influence the content and direction of NCCER OQ materials, is to participate as a subject matter expert (SME). Each of the programs in the PTAP series has been designed and produced by people from the industry. SMEs on the pipeline curriculum work with fellow SMEs, NCCER staff and technical writers to produce the finest training programs possible. They define the competencies of their trades, they share their in-depth knowledge and expertise, and they volunteer their time, commitment and concern.

To participate on an SME committee, members must not only attend committee meetings, but they must be well prepared. In return for their efforts, there are some important fringe benefits: new friendships, a chance to learn what is being done in other parts of the country, a chance to learn new things about the industry and the satisfaction that comes from knowing they are positively impacting the future of the industry.

For information on how to get involved as an SME, visit the Subect Matter Expert page or contact NCCER’s Product Development department at 888-622-3720.

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