Category Archives: Marcellus

Pennsylvania Public Utility posts new rules for replacing aging pipelines

Noting the Feb. 9 natural gas explosion that killed five Allentown residents, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission last week proposed requiring gas utilities to file plans outlining how much aging underground pipelines leak and when the utilities intend to replace them.

The PUC unanimously agreed without discussion to seek comments on the proposal, which was developed in light of “recent tragic incidents” as well as the growth of Marcellus Shale natural gas wells and changing federal gas safety regulations, a PUC statement said. Comments can be filed with the PUC up to Dec. 2.

“These plans will tentatively be required to include infrastructure replacement time frames and a proposal for the means by which the cost of the infrastructure replacement program should be addressed in rates,” PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson and Vice Chairman John F. Coleman Jr. said in joint statement.

Under the proposal, utilities would have to file pipeline replacement and performance plans. The plans should include a time frame for replacing aging pipelines and performance standards that include damage prevention, corrosion control and distribution system leaks, it said. Utilities would have to file plans next spring or summer, with final approval by the PUC late next year or early 2013.

Replacing old lines became a higher priority for Allentown on Feb. 9, after a pipeline owned by UGI Utilities installed in 1928 leaked, leading to the fatal blast at 13th and Allen streets. After the explosion, UGI released a plan showing it intended to replace six miles of old cast-iron pipeline in Allentown, more than doubling what it did in 2010. As of earlier this year, Allentown had 79 miles of cast-iron natural gas pipe beneath its streets and about 230 total in the Lehigh Valley.

UGI officials Thursday had not had an opportunity to consider the PUC’s action, said Daniel Adamo, business development director. “UGI will completely review the tentative order and will plan to comment by the deadline,” he said. “We believe it is our responsibility to safely deliver natural gas to our customers,” he added.

The commission action also requires gas utilities to provide distribution integrity management program plans, which are required by the federal government, with the PUC by Nov. 30. In 2009, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued new regulations that required gas distribution companies, such as UGI, to adopt written plans for continuous review of data to identify threats to pipeline systems, evaluating risks, and implementing measures to reduce risks.

As part of its proposed regulations, the PUC also plans to mandate “frost surveys,” which are leak surveys that utilities perform during cold weather months. The regulation would require frost surveys from Nov. 1 to April 30 each year. Previously, the PUC asked, but hadn’t mandated, frost surveys.

The leak surveys are to be conducted weekly or monthly, depending on the location and size of the line, the PUC said. The utilities would be required to report all leaks every other week and provide a schedule for repairing them, it said.


Stretching, Staffing and Pipeline Integrity Management

Pipeline Integrity Management
People who do not know MATCOR don’t yet recognize how highly qualified we all are in programmed corrosion prevention, and in reporting on the results

According to MATCOR’s Nick Judd, Houston-based corrosion engineer, “The company used to pick up less than 200 miles a year in pipeline integrity management (PIM) projects. Today, we are already doing more PIM; we’re growing to serve much more, and it’s no stretch to say we’ve got the capabilities.”

In deploying a broader range of experience-based capabilities, MATCOR knows that Pipeline Integrity Management is a crucial tool for operators and asset managers who have to do more in monitoring pipeline corrosion and assuring pipeline integrity. Judd maintains that MATCOR is present and accounted for in all the ways that reinforce the corporate theme, “Integrity that Works.”

“Today, everyone we hire is NACE-certified, starting with entry Level 1 and going through succeeding Levels 2 and 3,” he notes. “Our PIM professionals have to be Level 1 at least. We also staff with a mixture of graduate engineers in various disciplines and field-experienced personnel. Then we combine the two so we can go the extra distance for every PIM customer. Both Judd and MATCOR Executive Vice President Glenn Schreffler agree that the company’s personnel have to have both the “book learning” and the field experience to deliver effective PIM services.

“People who do not know MATCOR don’t yet recognize how highly qualified we all are in programmed corrosion prevention, and in reporting on the results,” says Judd.

The foundation is always NACE certification. Why? NACE has known for many years that there’s a need for supporting and reinforcing the integrity in corrosion prevention. NACE standards meet the needs of all segments of the infrastructure industry; they are written and approved by instructors and professors, government officials and regulatory experts, and especially by industry professionals…including some MATCOR experts. Judd maintains, “There need to be levels of testable knowledge leading to certification in corrosion, cathodic protection, and coatings and linings – this is part and parcel of our approach to PIM. So we make certain today that our technicians are NACE-certified by corporate mandate. Our internal OQ disciplines are just as rigorous.” (Judd is one of MATCOR’s Operator Qualification specialists as well.)

Integrity management of pipelines is an organized, integrated and comprehensive process that counters threats to pipeline safety. But as is now plain, PIM is about people. To be successful, MATCOR people not only meet widely recognized PIM standards but are able to apply them meticulously. “In PIM assignments, the crews I send out may have to meet weather challenges, or equipment difficulties – but never problems of applied knowledge or data acquisition or reporting.”

Effective PIM service delivery encompasses every one of the knowledge/data/reporting demands. “We carefully and successfully completed one ECDA (External Corrosion Detection Analysis) project for a very short segment of a customer’s pipelines, notes Judd. “We dotted every i, we crossed every t – we met and exceeded the expectations of the customer’s Corrosion Integrity Manager.”

“Even so, we were still pretty gratified when we got a callback from this customer, an opportunity to do more work, because our job performance was so good. Our new, larger project involves ICDA, (internal corrosion direct assessment), which also means extra computer modeling. I went over the PIM game plan with this customer and noted that we were going to need much more data to ensure success on this newer, large-scale project.”

“The customer agreed to help meet these requirements. And since he knows our data is superbly accurate, he is using the information we collect and analyze to revamp the alignment sheets on a 35-pipeline system.”

“This customer manager also feels that the MATCOR people working on this project understand the delicate differences among some of ‘his’ transportation system elements, which include gap and transmission mains, in-plant systems and distribution lines.”

“And for him – just as we’re doing for everyone now – MATCOR goes the extra distance, ensuring that we turn the data into analyses and report those within 48 hours of receiving the data.”

Whether MATCOR is conducting ECDAs, ICDAs, root cause analyses or ongoing maintenance and repair supervision, every element is documented and reported. So for MATCOR in PIM, there is an additional factor at work. “US Department of Transportation regulators are frequently on our sites,” says Judd, “closely monitoring how we actually conduct these processes and programs. We have an in-depth understanding of their reporting demands and we can use this savvy to help operators pass regulatory scrutiny with flying colors. It is one more level of reassurance – again supported by MATCOR’s multiple levels of experience and dedication to going the extra mile.”

For Judd, none of this is a stretch. His obligation to integrity reinforces the company’s. “Whenever I leave a meeting, I always want to be certain I have said the same things today that I said last year, and will continue to say next year, in terms of commitments made and delivered upon.”

“When MATCOR says, ‘We will do it,’ it’ll get done. Period.”

Manhattan Residents expressed fears for proposed 30-inch high pressure Natural Gas Pipeline

West Side residents expressed their fears at a Tuesday Community Board 2 forum about a proposed 30-inch, high-pressure, natural gas pipeline crossing the Hudson River from New Jersey to Gansevoort St.

The Spectra Energy pipeline between Linden, N.J., and the West Village has the support of the Bloomberg administration, which has mandated that thousands of residential furnaces using high-polluting No. 4 and No. 6 heating oil be converted in the next few years to relatively clean-burning natural gas.

Jason Mansfield, chairperson of the C.B. 2 Environmental, Public Health and Safety Committee, said the forum was intended to help draft the board’s response to the FERC review before the Oct. 31 deadline for public comment.

The federal agency is holding a meeting in Greenwich Village at P.S. 41, W. 11th St. at Sixth Ave., at 7 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 20, to take public testimony.

“This is an important meeting since your comments will be entered into the record and FERC can hear from you firsthand,” Mansfield said at opening of the Tuesday forum. The Oct. 4 pipeline forum was the committee’s third in two years.

Later this week the public will be able to file comments on the project directly with FERC online through the C.B. 2 Web site at

Representatives of Spectra Energy, Con Edison and the city Department of Environmental Protection spoke at length about the need for the pipeline and the safety measures to be employed in its construction and operation.

But opponents insisted they were not convinced that a new natural gas source was really needed, much less a large, high-pressure line with potential safety risks.

Regarding safety, one member of the audience demanded, “How can we trust you?” citing the Sept. 9, 2010, explosion and fire from Pacific Gas & Electric’s natural gas line that destroyed 53 homes, damaged 120 other buildings and killed one person in San Bruno, California, near San Francisco.

Spectra said the proposed pipeline would have specially made and inspected high-strength flexible pipe with coating inside and out, buried 3 feet or more with special fill. In operation, technicians monitoring operations via robotics could remotely shut down the line.

But C.B. 2 members noted that the board last year suggested that automatic shutoff valves might be more reliable than remote control shutoff. However, Spectra representatives at the Tuesday forum said technology for remote shutoff was better than automatic shutoff technology.

“A lightning strike could trigger an automatic shutoff,” said Ed Gonzales, Spectra project manager.

The Spectra pipeline under review would cross the southwest corner of Gansevoort Peninsula, cross the West Side Highway at Gansevoort St. and terminate on the west side of the proposed Whitney Museum property.

Con Edison would build its own high-pressure, 30-inch, natural gas line from the Gansevoort terminus of the Spectra pipeline along 10th Ave. for 1,500 feet to a Con Edison connection at 15th St. at 10th Ave.

But the Con Edison connector line is not part of the FERC environmental review. Cheryl Payne, the engineer in charge of Con Edison’s gas transmission, said the connector line has not been designed yet. But she said the materials and construction method would conform to the same high standards of the Spectra pipeline.

The Con Edison connector line would also use a remote shutoff system. Like the Spectra representative, Payne said an automatic shutoff system could be triggered by an event like lightning and needlessly leave large areas of the city without service.

C.B. 2’s Mansfield said later that the environmental review of the Spectra project should include Con Edison’s connector line.

“I don’t think they really made the case that the pipeline is needed,” he added. “It just wasn’t justified in view of its potential for catastrophic damage.”

Many of the project’s opponents at the Tuesday meeting had in mind the impending rules on natural gas production by high-volume hydrofracture drilling in New York State’s Southern Tier.

Spectra representatives said the company’s business was only natural gas transportation, not production. Indeed, the draft environmental impact statement indicates that the pipeline would be able to bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale regions of southern New York and northern Pennsylvania into the Manhattan.

Catherine Skopic, an environmental advocate, told the Oct. 4 forum that it was time for investment and exploration of renewable resources like solar voltaic cells and wind energy instead off fossil fuel.

Opponents were also skeptical about the common assumption that natural gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels, if the environmental damage of hydrofracture drilling is included in the assumption.

Speaking to the fear of terrorism, Frank Eady, a former member of Community Board 4, raised the specter of Stuxnet, a computer program that he said was used to sabotage and set back Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“That program is out there,” he warned.

Spectra representatives acknowledged that they didn’t know about Stuxnet, but Gonzales said the company monitored potential cyberspace danger.

Mav Moorhead, a Lower Manhattan resident angrily demanded, “Who will be accountable when the neighborhood blows up?” she said, adding, “We don’t have a hospital,” referring to the closing of St. Vincent’s.