PHMSA Publishes Plastic Pipe Final Rule

The updates to Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations for plastic piping systems used to transport natural or other gas reflect changing technologies and issues affecting plastic pipe and respond to several industry petitions asking PHMSA to consider regulatory updates for plastic pipe.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration published a final rule on Nov. 20 that amends the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations for plastic piping systems used in the transportation of natural or other gas. The updates in the final rule are intended to improve safety, allow for the expanded use of plastic pipe products in the transportation of natural or other gas, and allow or require the use of certain materials and practices, according to the agency. The rule will take effect 60 days after being published.

"Advancements in plastic pipe design and manufacturing have resulted in products that are much safer today than they were 20 years ago," said PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott. "These regulatory updates will significantly contribute to advancing public safety."

The final rule applies only to new, repaired, and replaced pipelines. Regulatory updates include an increased design factor for polyethylene pipe; updated standards governing the use, maximum pressure limits, and diameters for pipelines made of polyamide 11 and 12 thermoplastics; new and expanded standards for the installation of plastic pipe to help mitigate contact with other underground utilities and structures; and several other installation and operational related provisions for plastic pipe and plastic pipe components.

According to the agency, the updates reflect changing technologies and issues affecting plastic pipe and respond to several industry petitions asking PHMSA to consider regulatory updates for plastic pipe. As a result of the rule's updated design factor, the cost of materials to produce new pipe is estimated to be reduced by 10 percent, resulting in an annual material cost savings of approximately $32 million for transmission, gathering, and distribution operators.

Petitions listed in the rule were submitted by the American Gas Association, Evonik Industries, Arkema, and the Gas Piping Technology Committee.

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