Industry Continues to Strengthen Gas Pipeline Safety Regulations
by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President and Lead Instructor
“Safety is cited as the No. 1 concern among all sectors of the natural gas industry”
As we have often discussed in Energy Currents blog posts over the last two years, safety of natural gas pipelines and storage fields has become a critical issue for the industry. Significant recent incidents have exposed the risks associated with aging infrastructure and traditional operating procedures.
In response to congressional mandates and various industry safety recommendations, the federal agency responsible for regulating pipeline safety (the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, commonly called PHMSA) recently proposed a new natural gas transmission rule.
The proposed new rule changes would extend to additional parts of the pipeline system and would expand rules associated with parts covered in existing rules. Changes include:
- Extending rules to many gas gathering pipelines and to newly defined Moderate Concentration Areas (MCAs)
- Applying pressure testing and maximum allowable operating pressure or MAOP verification to pre-1970 pipelines
- Modifying pipeline repair criteria
- Providing additional direction on evaluation of internal inspection results
- Clarifying requirements for conduction risk assessments, including addressing seismic risk
- Expanding mandatory data collection and integration requirements
- Requiring additional post-construction quality inspections
- Requiring new safety features for pipeline launchers and receivers used in internal pipeline inspections
- Requiring a systematic approach to verifying MAOP and requiring operators to report when a pipe’s MAOP has been exceeded
The proposed new rules are out for public comment as I write this post and are expected to be implemented quickly. The result will be increasing time and money spent on pipeline safety but hopefully a corresponding reduction in pipeline incidents.
For more discussion on pipeline safety, see the following resources:
 “Pipeline Safety: Top Concern for All Segments of Natural Gas Industry,” Christina McKenna, Enerdynamics Energy Currents Blog, November 6, 2014