Category Archives: Safety

Piedmont Natural Gas Announces Investment in Constitution Pipeline Project

Piedmont Natural Gas today announced its equity investment in Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, a natural gas pipeline project slated to transport natural gas supplies from the prolific Marcellus supply region in northern Pennsylvania to major northeastern markets. The project is scheduled to be in service by March 2015. Piedmont Natural Gas, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Piedmont Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, joins Williams Partners L.P.  and Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation  as a 24 percent equity participant in the joint venture, and will invest an estimated $180 million in the new project.

Thomas E. Skains, Piedmont’s Chairman, President, and CEO commented on the Company’s involvement, “Piedmont’s equity participation in the Constitution Pipeline project aligns very well with our strategic focus on expanding our investments in complementary energy-related businesses as a means of enhancing shareholder value.”  Skains continued, “We are excited about making an investment in strategic pipeline infrastructure in the Marcellus supply basin that will transport clean, low cost natural gas supplies to premium East Coast markets and provide substantial benefits for both natural gas producers and consumers.  We are equally excited to be joining such strong joint venture partners as Williams Partners and Cabot Oil and Gas, as both are outstanding companies and widely respected in our industry.”

An affiliate of Williams Partners will construct, operate, and maintain the new 30-inch, 121-mile long transmission pipeline that is being designed with sufficient capacity to transport 650,000 dekatherms of natural gas per day (a quantity of natural gas that can serve approximately 3 million homes) from established Marcellus production areas in Susquehanna County of northern Pennsylvania.   The pipeline will connect with the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline systems in Schoharie County, New York and is already fully contracted with long-term commitments from established natural gas producers currently operating in Pennsylvania; Piedmont will not be a customer of Constitution Pipeline.  Williams Partners will maintain a 51 percent ownership share, Cabot Oil and Gas a 25 percent share, and Piedmont Natural Gas, through its wholly owned subsidiary, a 24 percent share in the pipeline venture.

“Williams Partners enjoys a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with Piedmont as a customer on our Transco pipeline system and as a joint venture partner in existing pipeline and storage infrastructure projects in North Carolina. We are delighted to expand that relationship with Piedmont as a new partner in the Constitution Pipeline,” said Alan Armstrong, chief executive officer of Williams Partners.  “Constitution is a key component of the Susquehanna Supply Hub that Williams Partners is expanding to connect Marcellus Shale producers like Cabot and Southwestern Energy with the highest-value markets.

“The Constitution Pipeline is a great example of the kind of leadership and investment –from energy-infrastructure providers like Williams Partners, utilities like Piedmont and producers like Cabot – that we believe is key to building the foundation our nation needs to realize the full benefits of the new abundance of long-lived, clean-burning natural gas supplies in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale and elsewhere in North America.”

The Constitution Pipeline project was first announced in February 2012 by Williams Partners and Cabot Oil and Gas. Construction of the new pipeline is expected to begin in April 2014 with an in-service date of March 2015. Constitution Pipeline is currently in the pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency charged with the regulation of interstate pipelines.  Constitution Pipeline plans to file a formal certificate application with the FERC in the spring of 2013.  More information about the Constitution Pipeline project can be found at www.constitutionpipeline.com.

Read More: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/13/4981407/piedmont-natural-gas-announces.html

Gov. Brown signs 3 bills tightening pipeline safety

Three bills that will tighten safety restrictions on natural gas pipelines as well as prioritize revenue for upgrades instead of executive compensation were signed into law Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown signed 34 pieces of legislation Sunday, including Assembly Bills 578, 861 and 1456, all sponsored by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.

Hill’s district includes the Crestmoor neighborhood in San Bruno, which was devastated when a PG&E natural gas pipeline exploded in September 2010. The blast and subsequent fire killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes. Hill has made it a priority to increase regulations on utility companies to prevent another disaster.

AB 578 will require the California Public Utilities Commission, the agency that oversees and regulates utilities, to adopt the standards set forth by the National Transportation Safety Board. If the commission opts not to adopt the standards, it must submit reasons for the decision in writing.

Provisions under AB 861 would “ensure utilities don’t cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to convert ratepayer dollars into bonuses for executives,” according to Hill.

The assemblyman said company executives often receive big payouts even when there are pipelines that need to be replaced and standards that need to be upgraded.

With AB 1456, the CPUC will be required to adopt performance metrics for pipeline safety and will have the power to levy fines to those utilities that are found to be performing poorly.

Hill is scheduled to host a news conference announcing the signing of the legislation at the CPUC building in San Francisco at 10 a.m. today.
SOURCE: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2012/09/gov-brown-signs-3-bills-tightening-pipeline-safety#ixzz27OeOPwBq

Report: More to be done to make pipelines safer

The Associated Press reports that Salt Lake City authorities say more can be done to prevent massive oil spills in Utah like two costly ones near Red Butte Creek in 2010, but they’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the cost, according to a report released this week.

The review, commissioned by Salt Lake City and authored by the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust, points out that the state can go beyond the minimum pipeline safety standards outlined by the federal government.

“I would like it to be safer,” Carl Weimer, the trust’s executive director and study’s author, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “But maybe Utah doesn’t want it to be safer.”

The report comes two years after leaks in a Chevron pipeline spilled nearly 55,000 gallons of crude oil in Salt Lake City’s eastern foothills. Since then, Chevron spent about $42.6 million on spill-related expenses, including $36.6 million in cleanup efforts on Red Butte Creek, $500,000 to Utah, and $1 million to Salt Lake City.

Recommendations include clearer standards for leak detection and damage reports, more transparency, and the creation of a citizen pipeline safety advisory board that would work with oil and gas industry officials to periodically review the pipelines.

Weimer estimates there are 347 miles of natural gas and hazardous liquid transmission lines underground in the 500-square-mile Salt Lake valley. He says that’s far too many for regulators to monitor closely.

“Although the federal government is responsible for setting minimum pipeline safety standards, Utah can adopt additional or stricter safety standards,” the report says. “To date, Utah has not chosen to seek any authority over hazardous liquid pipelines or interstate natural gas pipelines.”

Mayor Ralph Becker responded to the report, saying Salt Lake City needs to take the lead on protecting the community rather than leaving the job to the industry.

Becker said he plans to bring the report to state lawmakers in hopes of getting stricter pipeline safety rules on the books.

Capitol Dome Is Imperiled by 1,300 Cracks

The Capitol dome, the nation’s grandest symbol of federal authority, has been dinged by years of inclement weather, and its exterior is in need of repair.

The dome has 1,300 known cracks and breaks. Water that has seeped in over the years has caused rusting on the ornamentation and staining on the interior of the Rotunda, just feet below the fresco “The Apotheosis of Washington,” which is painted on the Rotunda’s canopy.

“The dome needs comprehensive rehabilitation,” said Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, whose office oversees the building’s physical state. “It’s a public safety issue.”

The skirt of the dome — the section around the base of the original sandstone foundation — was fixed up recently at a cost of about $20 million, but an additional $61 million is needed to repair and restore the rest of the structure’s exterior.

The Capitol’s first dome, made of copper-covered wood, was completed in 1824 but by the 1850s was deemed too small. It was also seen as a fire hazard in a place where oil lamps, British attacks and other events had caused blazes. A cast-iron replacement was envisioned, and lawmakers, thrilled with the idea, appropriated $100,000 to begin construction, with the acquiescence of President Franklin Pierce.

Construction on the cast-iron dome began in 1856 and progressed through various architects, disputes over the design and the Civil War, when the project was continued in part by workers who were afraid that the military would take the metals and repurpose them for war use, said Donald A. Ritchie, the Senate historian.

The Statue of Freedom, which sits triumphantly atop the nine million pounds of ironwork that makes up the dome, was completed in December 1863, topping the project. The interior was finished in 1866, its famous fresco revealed. Total cost: $1,047,291, or more than $15 million in today’s dollars.

The dome was completely restored in 1960 during the construction of the Capitol’s East Front extension. Weather remains its biggest enemy: precipitation pelts the exterior, and the statue endures the occasional strike of lightning. At least 100 pieces of the dome have fallen off or been removed, including a 40-pound cast-iron decorative acorn.

Viewed from a (sort of scary) balcony between the fresco above and a frieze depicting American history that lines the Rotunda’s interior, tourists with iPhones and fanny packs can be seen lingering in awe hundreds of feet below, unaware of the water damage and chipping paint above.

“When you have those conditions on the outside,” said Mr. Ayers, the Capitol’s architect, “it really accelerates deterioration on the inside,” including possible damage to the fresco, which is painted on plaster.

In other words, just as it is best to fix a bathroom leak before it causes damage to the rest of the house, the dome repairs could prove much more expensive over time.

The project will involve taking apart many pieces of the dome, one at a time, and then putting them back together once repaired, much like a puzzle, Mr. Ayers said.

In many ways, the process reflects the history of the Capitol and the nation, said Mr. Ritchie, the historian. “The Capitol building is an interesting conglomeration,” he said. “It is a whole series of buildings put together at different times, and in that way it is a nice reflection of American democracy, which was put together piecemeal from a lot of different materials. It reflects one motto of our nation, ‘E pluribus unum,’ Latin for ‘Out of many, one.’ ”

“The Capitol is a wonderful story of the history of our nation,” Mr. Ritchie said. “And as a result it is preserved very carefully to maintain the story, not to mention to keep it from leaking into the Rotunda.”

SOURCE: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/25/us/politics/capitol-dome-is-imperiled-by-cracks-and-a-partisan-divide.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&adxnnl=1&emc=edit_th_20120825&adxnnlx=1345896049-oFy+LTfuCq7WCqro3b9uvA

Pipe corrosion caused explosion and fire at Regina refinery: investigators

REGINA – Fire inspectors say corrosion in a single pipe was behind an explosion and fire at the Co-op refinery in Regina last fall.

Their report says a tear measuring almost 18 centimetres long triggered the initial explosion and subsequent smaller ones.

They say the problem was in a diesel fuel processing area and had been getting worse since 2008 when practices at the plant changed.

Co-op officials say tests hadn’t shown any issues with the pipe.

Seven contract employees that were working on a $2-billion upgrade and expansion were sent to hospital and two more were treated for burns at the plant.

Another 1,400 people had to leave the refinery after the blast that triggered a huge fireball that could be seen all over the city.

Co-op says 80 per cent of the piping in the troubled area has been replaced since the fire and 19 other measures have been taken to increase testing.

The plant had another fire on a much smaller scale in May when an overheated crude oil pump ignited. There were no injuries.

SOURCE: http://www.canada.com/business/all/Pipe+corrosion+caused+explosion+fire+Regina+refinery+investigators/7101054/story.html

Probe of Chevron fire focuses on corroded pipe

Federal investigators looking into last Monday’s fire at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond want to know why the 8-inch carbon steel pipe that failed wasn’t replaced in November during a round of maintenance, officials said Sunday.

At that time, the refinery’s crude unit was taken offline, and a 12-inch pipe connected to the same distillation tower was replaced due to corrosion, said Daniel Horowitz, the managing director of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

Investigators do not yet know if corrosion in the 8-inch pipe caused a leak of hydrocarbon liquid that ignited. Horowitz said he believed the pipe was inspected last year, along with the 12-inch pipe, but that his agency had not yet reviewed the records.

Investigators are also looking into why the crude unit was kept running while workers tried to fix the leak. They said the workers narrowly escaped the vapor cloud that ignited.

The initial leak “had the effect of drawing people in,” Horowitz said. “We want to understand the decision-making around when you attempt to make a repair and when you shut the unit down.”

Chevron spokesman Justin Higgs said the company was cooperating with the probe and was “committed to better understanding the root cause of this incident.”

SOURCE: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Probe-of-Chevron-fire-focuses-on-pipe-3781644.php#ixzz23QrL1v1q

DOE to delay new cost, schedule for vit plant over corrosion concerns

The Department of Energy will delay coming up with a new cost and schedule for Hanford’s huge vitrification plant after a technical panel agreed with an employee that erosion and corrosion within the plant must be addressed.

David Huizenga, DOE’s senior adviser for environmental management, made the announcement today in a national media call after congressional leaders were briefed this morning.

Resolving technical issues, including how to keep radioactive waste well mixed and to prevent erosion and corrosion within the plant, is expected to take more than a year and cost tens of millions of dollars, Huizenga said.

The testing is intended to give additional confidence that the Waste Treatment Plant can operate for the full 40 years planned to treat up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste for disposal, Huizenga said.

The waste, held in underground tanks, is left from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

“We’re trying to address technical issues head on and realistically,” Huizenga said.

By acknowledging issues now, the plant will not end up with unanticipated costs and maintenance issues in the future, he said.

Now the plant is legally required to start operating in 2019 and is projected to cost $12.2 billion, but DOE will not be able to finish it by then and at that price.

DOE had instructed its contractor Bechtel National in February to propose a new cost and schedule for the vitrification plant, which was due in August.

But with technical questions to be addressed for parts of the plant that will handle large quantities of high level radioactive waste, Bechtel will proceed only with a cost and schedule revision for the plant’s Low Level Waste Facility, the Analytical Laboratory and about 20 support facilities.

When testing is finished, it then can address additional cost and schedule information for the vit plant’s High Level Waste Facility and Pretreatment Facility.

Those two buildings have areas called “black cells,” that will be too radioactively hot for workers to safely enter after the plant begins operating for maintenance or to make repairs.

Construction at those facilities already has been ramped down and no further layoffs are anticipated.

Don Alexander, a DOE scientist, raised questions regarding erosion and corrosion in piping and tanks in black cells within the plant in September in a Difference of Professional Opinion report, disagreeing with scientific opinion accepted by DOE.

It was the third set of issues he’d raised in an ongoing Difference of Professional Opinion.

DOE addressed his concerns with a panel of technical experts that concluded his concerns are legitimate, and now DOE is planning testing that will be done in conjunction with already planned mixing testing to resolve them, Huizenga said.

“I think this demonstrates if people raise issues, we are willing to make tough decisions to address them,” Huizenga said.

Washington Gas ordered to pay six-figure penalty in home explosion case

Washington Gas has agreed to replace copper lines throughout a Chantilly neighborhood and pay Virginia a six-figure penalty stemming from a explosion in 2010, but the settlement will not compensate the homeowner’s whose loss launched the investigation.

In the agreement between the company and the State Corporation Commission, Washington Gas neither admits or denies violating safety standards. The company has been directed to undertake several safety improvements, including the replacement of all copper service lines in the Brookfield Community where the explosion occurred.

As of Dec. 20, 2010, charred debris was all that remained of Thuan Nguyen’s two-story home in the 4300 block of Lees Corner Road. No one was hurt in the explosion as the Nguyen family was out at the time.

A subsequent investigation and report of the accident by the SCC’s Division of Utility & Railroad Safety cited nine alleged violations of the commission’s gas pipeline safety standards against Washington Gas.

The report states the gas service line under Lees Corner Road leading to Nguyen’s home experienced severe corrosion that resulted in a major gas leak.

However, the report also states that alone is not enough to prove culpability for the explosion on the part of Washington Gas because it cannot be proved that a 1-inch diameter gas fuel line that “terminated on the second floor of the [Nguyen] residence” had been properly capped.

According to the report, the end threads of that fuel line were tested after the explosion for the presence of pipe thread sealant; none was found.

Representatives of the SCC and Washington Gas announced the settlement May 24 during a public forum in the neighborhood.

“We turned over every stone we could,” said Massoud Tahamtani, director of SCC’s Division of Utility & Railroad Safety. “What we found is that there were two sources of the potential leak; one under Washington Gas’s control and one under the homeowner’s control.”

According to SCC safety manager Shane Ayers, Washington Gas will be pay a penalty of $154,800 to the state, with an additional $219,700 due if the remedial actions set forth in the order are not met.

“We’ve got over 200 lines to replace in this neighborhood,” said Steve Price, Washington Gas spokesman.

“So if you don’t think the explosion was caused by faulty copper lines, why all this work?” Nguyen asked during the public forum.

“The corrosion rate for copper pipes is greater than other materials like steel,” Stabler replied. “It is rare to see corrosion and we only see two corrosions per year on average. We will take this opportunity to replace older copper lines in this neighborhood. ”

SOURCE: http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/article/20120601/NEWS/706019697/1117/washington-gas-ordered-to-pay-six-figure-penalty-in-home-explosion&template=fairfaxTimes

 

Bill would earmark PG&E fines for better pipelines

Two Bay Area lawmakers want to use revenue raised from fines leveled against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. – in connection with 2010’s San Bruno gas line explosion – to pay for upgrades to the utility’s transmission system, saying the move will save ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Under current state law, any fine assessed by the California Public Utilities Commission goes to the state’s general spending account, which pays for schools, prisons and other state programs.

Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would dedicate money raised from the explosion fines to pipeline upgrades. The measure is co-authored by San Francisco Democratic Sen. Mark Leno.

Hill said state regulators are expected to level at least $200 million – and probably far more – in penalties against the utility in connection with the deadly explosion. If that money is used for pipeline replacement instead of general state spending, he said, ratepayers would save at least $660 million.

“PG&E should not be allowed to profit from what has occurred,” Hill said. “The way it works now … PG&E will borrow the money for capital improvement costs and ratepayers will have to pay the principal back as well as interest.”

But the PUC also has authorized PG&E to grant its shareholders an 11.35 percent profit on its capital improvement projects – money that gets taxed. All these costs are to be paid for by ratepayers unless the bill passes.

Hill said that when you add up all of the additional costs, every dollar of penalty money spent on pipeline upgrades will save ratepayers $3 to $4.

“To me, those ratepayers within the PG&E service area are ones who have suffered the most … by living with an unsafe pipeline system,” he said. “I feel that those are the ratepayers who should benefit, or at least be made whole, from the penalties related to San Bruno.”

The PUC has not yet assessed fines against PG&E in connection with the San Bruno incident, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. But the utility’s managers set aside $200 million last year, saying they expect penalties could top that amount when three separate state investigations are complete.

Hill said PG&E is expected to spend more than $5 billion, including interest, over the next 50 years upgrading its transmission system to comply with federal recommendations.

Brian Swanson, a PG&E spokesman, said the utility has not taken a position on the bill but supports the concept.

 

SOURCE: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/29/BA9E1OP12K.DTL#ixzz1wS1x3g00

Minister hits back at Apache’s claims

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore has hit back at suggestions he had misrepresented the public of Western Australia by not releasing certain documents requested by Apache North West.

The criticism of the Minister was made in court today by Apache’s legal representative.

“All I have done is provide to the public the State Government-commissioned report into the Varanus Island explosion incident, and I did that only after allowing Apache reasonable time to review and comment on the contents of that report,” Mr Moore said.

“Any suggestion that I ‘cherry picked’ any particular documents is grossly offensive.

“Ironically this is what Apache is doing in seeking the publication of only two documents out of many others.”

The US-based oil and gas producer on Tuesday took action in Perth Magistrate’s Court to bring about the release of a report by Curtin University Professor of Corrosion Chemistry Rolf Gubner on the 2008 disaster, which slashed the state’s domestic gas supplies by about a third.

Apache last week threatened to bring the matter to court if WA mines minister Norman Moore did not table the Gubner report in parliament along with the state government-commissioned Bills-Agostini report, which was damning of Apache.

The Gubner report said Apache had reasonable grounds to believe the pipeline that exploded was in good repair, the court was told by Robert Richter, QC, representing the company.

The Bills-Agostini report, on the other hand, said the pipeline ruptured and exploded at the shoreline because of corrosion that was “not only foreseeable but to some extent foreseen” by Apache.

Mr Richter said the Gubner report took a “very, very different view” and was “most vital and important to counterbalance the criticisms” of the Bills-Agostini report.

“He (Mr Moore) cherry-picked, leaving out that report,” Mr Richter told reporters outside court.

“Mr Gubner effectively said that Apache had every right to have an honest and reasonable belief, and that they had an honest and reasonable belief, that the integrity of the pipe was sound.

“This was a completely unforeseen episode of highly accelerated and unusual corrosion.”

Mr Richter argued Apache could not itself release the Gubner report because it would breach an aspect of the Criminal Procedure Act applying to current court matters.

Mr Moore said the two documents in question, together with a range of other information, were supplied by the State Government and Apache under the discovery process for the prosecution.

Mr Moore said the documents from Apache’s employees were obtained under Schedule 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which prohibits publication of evidence obtained in a pre-trial examination.  However, Apache is able to disclose information held by its employees if it chooses to do so.

“As far as the Government is concerned, as stated in the court today, we would be prepared to make the Government documents available to the public, provided Apache makes its material available,” he said.

“The State submitted to the Court that Apache should not be allowed to cherry pick two documents which suit its purposes and use those documents, out of context, in a misleading manner.”

The state government recently abandoned its criminal prosecution case against the company and also ruled out civil action because it had received advice that it had no case.

However, court permission is still required before the Gubner report can be released.

Mr Richter said Apache sought to “untie its hands” so it could defend itself properly.

State Solicitor’s Office lawyer Rob Mitchell, SC, said the WA government would not seek to obstruct the release of the report.

The matter has been adjourned until Friday.
SOURCE: http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/minister-hits-back-at-apaches-claims-20120529-1zgux.html#ixzz1wMmiuxPj