Operation & Maintenance

During the last week of the Obama Administration, PHMSA released a pre-publication copy of the hazardous liquid pipeline safety final rule, which has been six years in the making. The rulemaking was intended to address issues raised by several sources: high profile pipeline accidents; directives contained in amendments to the Pipeline Safety Act; and recommendations from the NTSB and GAO. The final rule would implement many significant and expansive inspection and reporting requirements, including periodic integrity assessments and leak detection for pipelines outside of high consequence areas (HCAs), inspections of pipelines after extreme weather events, expanded reporting, and more stringent integrity management repair and data collection requirements.
Continue Reading Fate of Extensive Liquid Pipeline Final Rule Uncertain

Citing concerns that intrastate and small gas transmission pipeline operators may not be accurately identifying high consequence areas (HCAs) as part of their integrity management programs (IMP), PHMSA issued yet another advisory to the industry on December 12, 2016.  In its seventh advisory issued this year, PHMSA explains the need for further guidance on the methodology based on recent inspections as well as a Safety Recommendation issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 2015 (NTSB Recommendation P-15-06, issued in conjunction with the Board’s Safety Study of implementation of gas transmission integrity management rules).

Continue Reading Concerns about HCA Identification Methods Prompts Advisory

PHMSA has issued an interim final rule (IFR) to establish – for the first time ever – minimum federal standards for underground natural gas storage facilities. The IFR imposes significant new requirements in a short timeframe for “downhole facilities,” including wells, wellbore tubing and casings at underground natural gas storage facilities.
Continue Reading Underground Natural Gas Storage Interim Final Rule Issued

PHMSA has rescheduled the public meetings of the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee (GPAC) for January 11-12, 2017.  The purpose of these meetings is to discuss PHMSA’s proposed gas mega rule and the underlying regulatory analysis.  The meetings were previously scheduled for December 7-8, 2016, but have been rescheduled based on the availability of committee members and resources.

Continue Reading GPAC Public Meetings to Discuss PHMSA Gas Rule Rescheduled

A previously abandoned natural gas pipeline exploded in Seattle, Washington on March 9, 2016, injuring nine firefighters, destroyed two buildings, and damaged multiple nearby structures.  The entity responsible for regulating intrastate and interstate gas pipelines in the state, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, recently released a report from its investigation of the incident, concluding that it was caused by (1) external damage to the above-ground portion of the service line; and (2) improper abandonment of the line, which had not been cut and capped when it was taken out of service in 2004.  The report highlights the importance of adhering to federal regulatory requirements concerning proper pipeline abandonment, which was also the subject of a recent PHMSA Advisory Bulletin issued in response to a Congressional directive in the 2016 PIPES Act.

Continue Reading Pipeline Blast Highlights Necessity of Proper Abandonment Procedures

PHMSA issued an advisory to operators regarding the applicability of its safety regulations to idled, inactive and abandoned pipe. Congress directed PHMSA to issue such an advisory in the recent PIPES Act of 2016, in response to several high profile incidents involving idled pipe.
Continue Reading Pipe Subject to Safety Regulations Until Formally Abandoned: PHMSA Advisory

A recent PHMSA Advisory Bulletin warns the pipeline industry about Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI), which is frequently used on pipe transporting heavy crude oil.  Such products are often heated for more efficient transport, thus the pipe is wrapped with foam insulation over the coating, and then further covered with a tape wrap over the insulation.  The crude oil release from a Plains All American pipeline near Santa Barbara in May of 2015 used such thermal insulation, and the government’s investigation following that release prompted this Advisory from PHMSA.

Continue Reading Advisory Bulletin Warns About Corrosion Under Insulation

PHMSA has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM or Notice) to substantially revise that Agency’s rules (at 49 CFR Part 192) for construction, operation and maintenance of natural gas pipeline systems.
Continue Reading Expansive Proposed Rulemaking Issued by PHMSA for Natural Gas Pipelines