New pipeline record-keeping requirements are coming and old testing loopholes long enjoyed by older systems may be going, federal regulators warned operators this week.
In an advisory bulletin issued Tuesday (May 8), the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reminded gas pipeline facilities to preserve and verify records related to maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) and told hazardous liquid operators that they should do the same for maximum operating pressure (MOP).
|Pacific Gas & Electric vice president Nick Stavropoulos (left) discusses the company’s hydrostatic testing in a television interview. The testing, which ruptured several PG&E gas lines last fall, may be required on all older transmission lines nationwide.|
“Traceable, verifiable and accurate recordkeeping in the pipeline world is crucial,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “It enables us to respond more quickly in the event of an emergency, as well as gives us a more accurate snapshot of the overall infrastructure.”
The advisory reminds owners and operators that records supporting MAOP and MOP should be traceable, verifiable, complete and clearly linked to original information about a pipeline segment or facility. The records must also be verified by complimentary, but separate, documentation.
To be considered complete, pipeline records must display a signature, date or other appropriate marking to show the operator considers it to be a final document.
The revisions reflect new requirements for reporting procedures in the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, which President Obama signed Jan. 3. The oil and gas pipeline industry supported the measure.
Pipeline Safety Measures
The new procedures provide key safety data to help PHMSA address National Transportation Safety Board recommendations and make other minor changes to improve the overall quality of pipeline safety data.
“Collecting good data about pipelines is essential to keeping the people living near them safe,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This is just the latest in the Department of Transportation’s efforts to improve pipeline safety, including adding more pipeline inspectors and educating both the industry and communities nationwide about the role they can play.”
The President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request includes a 60 percent increase above Fiscal Year 2012 for PHMSA’s pipeline safety program. The additional funds would be used to hire more inspectors, increase coordination among states, and educate the public.
Tougher Testing Considered
Tuesday’s advisory also tipped the public that PHMSA is considering scrapping a grandfather clause that allowed gas transmission operators to establish the MAOP of pipe installed before 1970 by relying upon historical records.
If that clause is eliminated, operators of those older systems would have to reestablish MAOP using hydrostatic pressure testing.
Such testing is expensive, time-consuming and can occasionally push old pipes to the breaking point. Pacific Gas & Electric has been conducting widespread hydrostatic pressure testing on its gas transmission lines since the San Bruno disaster, and the tests have ruptured several pipelines. (A PG&E video explains the testing process.)
The NTSB recommended the elimination of the grandfather clause. Tuesday’s advisory says PHMSA will begin to gather public input on the idea.
Reporting Updates Proposed
The advisory followed a PHMSA Notice of April 13, outlining proposals to update accident and incident reporting forms for hazardous liquid, gas transmission, and gas gathering pipeline systems. The Notice also explains PHMSA’s consideration of a number of changes to the annual report form used by operators of natural gas transmission and gathering pipeline systems.
Comments on the proposal must be submitted by June 12, 2012, and should include the agency name and docket number “PHMSA-2012-0024” at the beginning of each comment submitted.