Tag Archives: pipeline safety standards

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.

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