Occupational Health & Safety

Rules May Be Tightened for Gas Transmission Pipelines

Citing the San Bruno explosion in September 2010, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said safety of gas transmission in high consequence areas has improved but may need additional mandates.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced that it is considering changing the integrity management requirements applied to gas transmission pipelines, including possibly changing the definition of a high-consequence area and placing more restrictions on the use of specific pipeline assessment methods.

Revised requirements may be needed on newly built or existing pipelines concerning mainline valves, including valve spacing and installation of remotely operated or automatically operated valves; whether requirements for corrosion control of steel pipelines should be strengthened is another issue, as is whether new regulations are needed to govern the safety of gathering lines and underground gas storage facilities, according to the agency's request for comments by Dec. 2 (www.regulations.gov, docket number PHMSA-2011-0023).

PHMSA said it believes existing integrity management requirements applicable to gas transmission pipelines have increased the level of safety associated with the transportation of gas in high consequence areas. However, incidents with significant consequences continue to occur on gas transmission pipelines – specifically, the San Bruno, Calif., explosion on Sept. 9, 2010, the agency noted.

An integrity management program is a documented set of policies, processes, and procedures that are implemented to ensure the integrity of a pipeline, and it includes:

  • identification of all high consequence areas
  • a baseline assessment plan
  • identification of threats to each covered pipeline segment, which must include data integration and a risk assessment. An operator must use the threat identification and risk assessment to prioritize covered segments for assessment and to evaluate the merits of additional preventive and mitigative measures for each covered segment
  • a management of change process and a quality assurance process

For more information, contact Mike Israni at 202-366-4571, fax 202-366-4566, or by mail at U.S. DOT, PHMSA, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, PHP-1, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

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