This PHMSA photo shows the point where a 30-inch crude oil pipeline of Enbridge Energy Partners ruptured near Marshall, Mich., on July 26, 2010, leaking 819,000 gallons. The agency issued its final Corrective Action Order to Enbridge on Sept. 22.

New Rules Coming for Onshore Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration may expand its definition of High Consequence Area, set leak detection requirements for all pipelines, and require measures to prevent stress corrosion cracking.

An advance notice of proposed rulemaking published Oct. 18 by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration outlines new safety rules it may put in place for onshore hazardous liquid pipelines. While PHMSA regulates about 173,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines, only 76,000 of these miles are in areas that could affect a High Consequence Area (HCA), which is defined as a commercially navigable waterway, a high-population area, or another populated area. Saying some operators voluntarily apply incident management practices to pipeline segments that don't affect an HCA, current regulations do not require this -- and that may soon change.

PHMSA said it may expand the definition of an HCA so more miles of pipeline are subject to the requirements. For example, it may change the phrase "commercially navigable waterways" to "navigable waters" or "waters of the United States," as in the Clean Water Act. The publication also asked whether major road crossings and/or railway crossings should be included as HCAs.

Pipelines affecting HCAs must have leak detection means installed, and the agency wants to improve leak detection for the remaining pipelines and increase their use of check values or remotely controlled valves to isolate sections of a pipeline. To that end, PHMSA may launch a rulemaking to require use of the valves in certain areas and/or provide additional guidance to operators on installing them in optimal locations. (A January 2010 advisory bulletin, ADB-10-01, reminded operators of all hazardous liquid pipelines to perform an engineering analysis to determine whether a computer-based leak detection system is necessary to improve leak detection performance and line balance processes.)

Current Pipeline Safety Regulations don't apply to all onshore hazardous liquid pipeline facilities. Exceptions are provided for onshore production, refining, or manufacturing facilities; storage or in-plant piping systems associated with onshore production, refining, or manufacturing facilities; moving hazardous liquid through low-pressure rural gathering lines that are less than 6 inches in diameter and not located in an area that is unusually sensitive to environmental damage; and moving hazardous liquid by non-pipeline modes of transportation. The agency asks whether these exemptions should be revised or repealed.

Comments are due by Jan. 18, 2011; submit them via, docket number PHMSA-2010-0229.

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