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PG&E Reveals More Pipeline Corrosion

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

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Embattled Pacific Gas & Electric has notified California state regulators of 180 corrosion areas along its pipeline network that violate the utility’s own standards.

Just weeks after California’s Public Utility Commission fined the utility $16.8 million for failing to conduct gas-leak surveys in certain areas, PG&E announced a “non-compliance issue regarding inadequate cathodic protection (CP) levels not promptly addressed on transmission pipelines at various locations throughout PG&E’s gas system territory.”

Some of the infractions date to 2004, PG&E said.

180 Locations

PG&E’s internal standards require the utility to regularly monitor test locations for corrosion throughout its system. In addition, the company is supposed to perform “non-routine” tests at other locations along the system.

 An explosion in the PG&E's San Bruno segment in 2010 killed eight people.

 San Bruno Fire Department

PG&E reported 180 areas of excessive corrosion, including some dating to 2004. An explosion in the utility’s San Bruno segment in 2010 killed eight people.

Now, PG&E says, monitoring at 180 of those “non-routine” locations showed corrosion levels “outside of PG&E’s established criteria.” PG&E did not disclose the size or severity of the corrosion areas.

In a letter Tuesday (June 5) to the PUC, the utility also acknowledged that it had no “associated remedial action plan” to address the excessive corrosion detected.

The lack of those action plans also violates PG&E’s own standard for “Corrosion Control of Gas Facilities,” which requires the utility to develop a corrective plan within 30 or 60 days (depending on the type of line) to restore adequate cathodic protection levels.

None of the corrosion is expected to compromise the pipeline’s structural integrity, and any damage found during follow-up visual inspections and leak surveys will be repaired, said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E’s executive vice president of gas operations.

Remedial Actions

The utility says it will:

• Notify all local jurisdictions where the corrosion was detected;

• Review its system cathodic protection records to check for other violations;

• Conduct leak surveys on all of the lines by June 30; and

• Complete all repairs, testing and remediation on the lines by Dec. 15.

PG&E said it would adjust the amount of electrical current being supplied to the pipelines to make sure the corrosion protection system is operating properly and “carry out timely solutions” when it finds irregularities.

“In about half of the locations where cathodic protection was below standards, corrective actions have already been taken but were not properly documented,” PG&E said.

‘Safety is Everything’

PG&E disclosed the problem as part of its new “Safety is Everything” initiative of stepped-up inspections and self-reporting in the wake of the catastrophic September 2010 explosion that flattened a San Bruno neighborhood and killed eight people.

A federal investigation traced the origin of that blast to a faulty longitudinal weld on a decades-old pipeline segment that PG&E records had indicated was seamless. Since the explosion, numerous inspections and investigations have revealed widespread problems with the utility’s safety record-keeping.

In March, the company agreed to pay $70 million in restitution to the city of San Bruno for the blast.

‘Proactively Scouring Every Inch’

“Self-reporting issues with our pipelines underscores our intense focus on safety and our commitment to being open and transparent,” said Stavropoulos. “We cannot expect to solve all of our problems overnight, but we are proactively scouring every inch of our pipeline system looking for anything that may remotely pose a safety concern.”

He added: “When we do come across a problem, we move without delay to correct it—and to document what we found, how we addressed it and how we plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Our new safety-is-everything culture at PG&E encourages employees to bring these concerns to light.

“There can be no compromises for running a safe operation and being transparent about how we are operating.”


Tagged categories: Cathodic protection; Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Health and safety; Pipelines; Site/field testing

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