Category Archives: Gas

NTSB prepares final report on PG&E explosion

Nearly one year after the fatal explosion of a PG&E Corp. natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, Calif., the National Transportation Safety Board plans to approve a final report on what caused the accident and issue pipeline safety recommendations in an effort to avoid repeating the tragedy, the agency’s chairman said Monday.

“It’s been a difficult investigation,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman wrote in a posting on the agency’s website. She added that “getting accurate information on the [pipe]line has been a challenge.”

On Sept. 9, a PG&E pipeline in San Bruno, south of San Francisco, exploded, igniting a fireball that killed eight people, injured 58, destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70 others.

Hersman said the board plans to approve its final report on the incident at a public meeting Tuesday, and make key recommendations for safer operation of natural gas pipeline systems “with the hope that the lessons of San Bruno are well-learned and are never repeated.”

The NTSB has made several pipeline safety recommendations over the last several months as a result of its investigation into the San Bruno pipeline explosion. Among them, the agency suggested that the nation’s gas pipeline operators should ensure that they have accurate documentation for all their pipelines, particularly aging pipes like the 55-year-old Line 132 that exploded in San Bruno.

The NTSB has suggested in interim reports that poor record-keeping and a lack of safety tests by PG&E likely masked manufacturing defects in the San Bruno pipeline. The agency also found that the company didn’t provide the local fire department and other emergency responders with information they needed to react properly to the pipeline explosion.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been leading a criminal investigation into the explosion, and several lawsuits have been filed against the utility.

On Friday, PG&E’s utility proposed spending $769 million over three years to test its natural gas pipelines, using high-pressure water techniques, as part of a $2.2 billion pipeline-safety program. The utility also proposed expanding the use of automated pipeline shut-off valves.

In June, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered PG&E and the state’s other natural gas utilities to make plans to test or replace their gas transmission pipelines that haven’t been pressure-tested. The plans are part of the CPUC’s effort to beef up the state’s pipeline safety regulations and improve its own oversight over the state’s thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines.

PG&E has said damage claims from the accident could total as much as $400 million, and that other costs associated with the accident could total $1.1 billion through 2012.

SOURCE: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ntsb-prepares-final-report-on-pge-explosion-2011-08-29

PG&E Proposes Spending $769M To Test Gas Pipelines, $2.2B Overall

PG&E Corp. (PCG) on Friday proposed spending $769 million over three years to test its natural gas pipelines as part of a $2.2 billion pipeline safety program, following a deadly pipeline explosion last year.

PG&E said it will pressure-test all of its untested pipe segments and expand use of automated pipeline shut-off valves. The utility has proposed passing on the cost of the project to its customers, with a $250 million rate increase in 2012 and subsequent increases of $30 million and $80 million in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Overall, the utility said it plans to spend $2.2 billion through 2014 on pipeline safety costs.

In June, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered PG&E and the state’s other natural gas utilities, owned by Sempra Energy (SRE), to file by Friday plans to test or replace their gas transmission pipelines that haven’t been tested with high-pressure water techniques.

The plans are part of the CPUC’s effort to beef up the state’s pipeline safety regulations and improve its own oversight over the state’s thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines.

On Sept. 9, a PG&E pipeline in San Bruno, Calif., exploded, igniting a fireball that killed eight people, injured several others and destroyed 38 homes.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which has been investigating the cause of the explosion, is scheduled to issue a final report on its findings Aug. 30.

The NTSB has suggested in interim reports that poor record-keeping and a lack of safety tests by PG&E likely masked manufacturing defects in the 55-year-old San Bruno pipeline. The agency also found that the company didn’t provide the local fire department and other emergency responders with information they needed to react properly to the pipeline explosion.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been leading a criminal investigation into the explosion, and several lawsuits have been filed against the utility.

In June, an independent panel of experts concluded that PG&E had a “dysfunctional culture” that gave little heed to public safety or the high level of technical expertise needed to safely operate a gas pipeline system.

The CPUC has launched a separate probe to determine whether PG&E’s poor record-keeping violated any rules or laws that might warrant penalties. The CPUC also is considering new pipeline-safety rules for PG&E and other pipeline operators in the state and has promised to beef up its oversight of PG&E and the state’s pipelines.

Earlier this month, PG&E announced it hired a new chief executive, Anthony Earley, to replace former CEO Peter Darbee, who left the company in the wake of the disaster.

The company has said damage claims from the accident could total as much as $400 million, and that other costs associated with the accident could total $1.1 billion through 2012.

In July, credit rating company Fitch Ratings lowered its outlook on the company, saying continued fallout from the accident has added uncertainty to its credit status.

The utility said Friday it will enhance electronic monitoring of its gas system to quickly identify ruptures and replace segments in need of new piping. It also plans to transition to electronic records from paper documents to streamline the testing and repair process.

“This plan represents a clear break with the way PG&E and other gas utilities once approached pipeline safety,” Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E’s new executive vice president of gas operations, said in a statement.

SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110826-714596.html

Regulators weigh more rules for natural gas pipelines

(Reuters) – U.S. regulators sought public input on Wednesday about the need for increased oversight of the country’s natural gas pipelines, as part of a push to strengthen safety after several deadly accidents.

The U.S. Transportation Department asked for comments about whether certain regulatory exemptions for pipelines built before 1970 should be eliminated and whether rules regarding pipeline integrity should be expanded.

“Incidents with significant consequences continue to occur on gas transmission pipelines, and this action will help us determine whether new requirements are needed to increase safety,” Cynthia Quarterman, head of the department’s pipeline oversight agency, said in a statement.

A 2.5-million-mile (4-million-km) network of pipelines crisscrosses the United States, carrying everything from crude oil to natural gas to refined products such as gasoline and jet fuel.

The department launched an oil and gas pipeline safety initiative in April after a series of high-profile accidents in the country’s aging web of pipelines.

An explosion on a natural gas pipeline operated by UGI Utilities killed five people this past February in Allentown, Pennsylvania, while a blast on a PG&E Corp line in California last year killed eight people.

Many pipelines date to the 1960s or earlier and old lines are rarely retired. The overall length of active U.S. pipelines has grown more than 20-fold since the 1920s.

As part of its safety push, the department is also asking for feedback about the need to reduce operating pressure for some pipelines that are more than 40 years old.

Pipeline safety has actually improved sharply over the past 20 years. But from 2006 through 2009 U.S. oil and gas pipeline accidents killed 56 people, caused $1.2 billion in property damage and spilled 381,000 barrels of oil, government data shows.

Recent oil spills from TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, as well as Exxon Mobil’s Silvertip line, have also raised concerns about the environmental risks posed by crude oil pipelines.

Earlier this year, the Senate commerce committee approved legislation that would raise fines against reckless operators of petroleum and natural gas lines and require automatic shut-off valves to prevent oil spills and gas explosions.

SOURCE: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/25/us-pipelines-usa-natgas-regulations-idUSTRE77N6MZ20110825