After briefing the industry on the initiative in November 2014, PHMSA initiated a rulemaking docket to consider establishing an Integrity Verification Process (IVP) for hazardous liquid pipelines. A similar process is already underway with respect to natural gas pipelines as required by the 2011 Congressional amendments to the Pipeline Safety Act (see prior pipelinelaw alerts). The liquid IVP would apply to: (1) pipelines, including rural gathering lines, located in high consequence areas, (2) pipelines that could affect right-of-ways of various types of roadways; (3) highly volatile liquid pipelines; and (4) any other pipeline with a maximum operating pressure (MOP) of greater than 20% specified minimum yield strength (SMYS). The IVP would include verification of MOP and material records, pressure testing and material verification where records do not exist, re-evaluation where a risk-based alternative is used in lieu of pressure testing and fatigue analysis to determine reassessment intervals for integrity issues associated with cracking. PHMSA prepared a detailed flow chart to outline the proposed process.
In addition, the Agency sponsored a report that was recently finalized by pipeline experts Kiefner and Associates, Repair/Replace Considerations for Pre-Regulation Pipelines. This report includes industry guidelines for implementing and executing a pre-regulation pipeline repair/replace program for natural gas transmission pipelines, natural gas distribution pipelines and hazardous liquid pipelines. Pre-regulation pipelines are generally those installed prior to 1970 when federal pipeline safety regulations were first promulgated. The guidelines provide a standardized method to assist operators in determining which of their pre-regulation pipelines can be repaired and maintained safely and which should be replaced. The report explains that when maintained with appropriate and timely inspections, older pipelines can be operated without excessive risk to the public and are not necessarily less safe than more modern pipelines. In particular, the report highlights certain “global threats” to pipeline integrity that could necessitate replacement of a pipeline if they are not mitigated including: external corrosion, internal corrosion, stress crossing cracking, pressure-cycle induced fatigue, selective seam weld corrosion, slow crack growth in polyethylene pipe, and graphitization in case iron pipe. The guidelines overlap with concepts set forth in PHMSA integrity management regulations, but also divide types of pre-regulation pipe into the following categories: (1) legacy pipe (i.e., pipe types that are no longer manufactured and have a history of manufacturing-related problems), (2) modern pipe (i.e., pre-regulation pipe made by current manufacturing techniques but prior to steel-making improvements that made possible high-toughness and high-integrity line pipe characteristics seen in pipe manufactured since the 1980s), (3) legacy features (i.e., types of joints and construction methods that are now obsolete and have caused integrity issues), and (4) legacy repair methods (i.e., obsolete defect-repair techniques that have led to pipeline integrity impairment).
Authors John Kiefner and Mark VanAuker convened a webcast presentation to discuss the report with PHMSA’s Steve Nanney, Jim Merritt and Bob Smith. In particular, during the question and answer portion of the meeting, PHMSA made a point to explain that the guidelines in the report are not regulatory requirements and the Agency has no future plans to incorporate them into its regulations. Notably, the report guidelines may in the future be included in industry consensus pipeline safety standards including ASME B31.4 and ASME B31.8 (portions of which are incorporated into PHMSA regulations under Parts 195 and 192). In addition, these guidelines could arguably set an industry standard or best practice, and PHMSA may impose these requirements indirectly through enforcement actions.