PHMSA Proposes to Strengthen and Expand Pipeline Safety Requirements for Gas Transmission Pipelines
In response to growing public concerns stemming from incidents such as the recent gas pipeline rupture in San Bruno, California, which resulted in eight deaths and considerable property damage, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ("PHMSA") has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("ANPRM") requesting comments on a number of changes being considered to strengthen and expand the integrity management ("IM") and non-IM requirements that apply to natural gas transmission pipelines. More specifically, PHMSA is requesting comments on a number of possible regulatory revisions that would have important implications for the pipeline industry, including, among other things:
- whether the definition of High Consequence Area ("HCA") should be broadened to include more miles of pipeline;
- whether operators should be required to adopt specific preventive and mitigative measures for pipeline segments in HCAs;
- whether the immediate repair criteria should be strengthened to require more than a 10% margin between predicted failure pressure and maximum allowable operating pressure ("MAOP");
- whether to establish requirements for underground gas storage safety;
- whether the exemptions for certain facilities that were installed prior to the current regulatory scheme should be eliminated; and
- whether to amend the regulations to cover gas gathering lines.
This Client Update summarizes the regulatory changes PHMSA is considering and highlights a number of the specific areas on which PHMSA has requested comments. The deadline for submitting written comments on this ANPRM is December 2, 2011.
IM Requirement Changes
A. Definition of HCA
PHMSA is considering modifying the definition of HCA under its regulations to make more miles of pipeline subject to IM requirements. PHMS is requesting comments on whether it should do so, and if so, what amendments should be made. In addition, PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things:
- whether, instead of revising the HCA definition, it would be more beneficial to focus more intense safety measures on the highest risk, highest consequence areas, or on something else;
- whether HCA criteria should be revised to capture critical infrastructure that is potentially at risk, such as electric transmission lines serving large communities;
- the proper role for the public/communities in identifying HCAs; and
- whether to develop additional safety measures for areas outside of HCAs.
B. Preventive and Mitigative Measures for Pipeline Segments in HCAs
PHMSA is considering whether to strengthen its requirements to implement more preventive and mitigative measures for pipeline segments in HCAs. PHMSA is requesting comments on whether these requirements should apply to pipe segments outside of HCAs. PHMSA is also seeking comments on, among other things, the following issues:
- any preventive and mitigative measures that should be required of operators;
- whether these measures should include more line markers; depth of cover surveys; close interval surveys for cathodic protection ("CP") verification; coating surveys and recoating to help maintain CP current; additional right-of-way patrols; shorter in-line inspection ("ILI") run intervals; additional gas quality monitoring, sampling, and ILI tool runs; and improved standards for marking lines for operator construction and maintenance and one-calls; and
- whether additional prescriptive requirements are needed to improve selection and implementation decisions.
C. Repair Criteria
PHMSA is considering whether the IM rule related to repair criteria should be revised to provide greater assurance that injurious anomalies and defects are being repaired before a leak or rupture occurs. PHMSA is further considering establishing repair criteria for segments located outside of HCAs. PHMSA is also seeking comments on, among other things:
- whether the immediate repair criterion of FPR < 1.1 should be revised to require repair at a higher threshold (i.e., whether the 10% margin required between the predicted failure pressure and MAOP should be increased to a higher level);
- whether repair safety margins should be revised to meet new construction standards;
- whether there should be a metal loss repair criterion that requires either immediate repair or repair within a specific time frame regardless of whether it is located in an HCA;
- whether PHMSA should prescribe ILI assessment standards, methods for validating ILI tool performance, and appropriate assessment methods for pipeline integrity threats; and
- whether PHMSA should adopt mandatory requirements for conducting ILI using "smart pigs," the qualification of persons interpreting ILI data, and the review of ILI results.
D. Pipeline Data
In light of preliminary findings in the recent San Bruno, California incident which point to errors in the pipeline operator's records concerning pipe segments, PHMSA is considering adopting more prescriptive requirements for collecting, validating, integrating and reporting pipeline data. PHMSA is requesting comments on whether it should do so, and if so, what the requirements should entail. PHMSA is further asking for comments on, among other things, (i) what practices are presently being used to acquire, integrate, and validate data concerning the condition of pipelines; and (ii) whether operators, on a periodic basis, try to verify data concerning the pipe segments, such as pipe seam type, pipe mechanical and chemical properties, mill inspection reports, hydrostatic test reports, coating type and condition, pipe leaks and operations and maintenance ("O&M") records.
E. Risk Models
PHMSA is considering making the requirements that relate to risk models more prescriptive and is requesting comments regarding, among other things:
- whether PHMSA should strengthen requirements on the functions that risk models must perform or mandate the use of a particular risk model for pipeline risk analyses;
- the ways that existing models are used to inform management of existing risks; and
- whether relative index models are sufficiently robust to support the evaluation of preventive and mitigative options and the evaluation of interacting threats.
F. Application of Knowledge Gained Through the IM Program
PHMSA is considering strengthening the requirements that relate to operators' use of the insights they gain from the IM program. PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things:
- whether PHMSA should adopt regulations that specify a maximum period in which pipeline risk assessments must be reviewed and validated as current and accurate;
- practices operators use to comply with the § 192.917(e)(5) requirement that operators consider other portions of their pipeline if an assessment identifies corrosion requiring repair;
- the ways that operators update risk assessments as they gain additional knowledge;
- how often aerial photography and patrol information should be updated; and
- whether an operator's data integration includes a robust database that contains information regarding pipe diameter; wall thickness; grade and seam type; pipe coating; girth weld coating; maximum operating pressure; HCAs; hydrostatic test pressure, including any known test failures; casings; any in-service ruptures or leaks; ILI surveys; high resolution geometry/caliper tools; close interval surveys; depth of cover surveys; rectifier readings; test point survey readings; AC/DC interference surveys; pipe coating surveys; pipe coating and anomaly evaluations from excavations; stress corrosion cracking ("SCC") excavations and findings; and exposures from encroachments.
G. Selection and Use of Assessment Methods
PHMSA is considering strengthening the requirements for the selection and use of assessment methods. Specifically, PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things:
- whether it should revise its regulations to require an assessment using ILI whenever possible, since "that method appears to provide the most information about pipeline conditions";
- whether to require a pressure test to address manufacturing and construction defects;
- whether it should consider additional requirements to expand the amount pipeline that is modified to accommodate ILI tools;
- the number of immediate and total repairs per mile that result from ILI assessments, pressure tests, and direct assessments;
- the standards used to conduct ILI, ICDA, and SCCDA assessments, and whether those standards should be incorporated into the regulations; and
- what, if any, remediation, hydrostatic test or replacement standards should be incorporated in PHMSA regulations to address internal corrosion and SCC.
H. Valve Spacing and Remotely or Automatically Controlled Valves
PHMSA is considering changing its requirements for sectionalizing block valves and whether remotely or automatically operated valves should be required to assure that pipeline operators have the ability to isolate sections of gas transmission pipelines in the event of an accident. Specifically, PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things:
- whether the existing spacing requirements for sectionalizing block valves are adequate, and if not, what the maximum or minimum separation distance should be;
- should additional block valves be required when class locations change as a result of population increases and should factors other than class locations be considered in specifying required valve spacing;
- what conditions require block valves to be remotely or automatically controlled and should there be a time limit on the maximum amount of time for an operator’s maintenance crews to reach a block valve that is not remotely or automatically controlled;
- whether PHMSA should consider requiring that all sectionalizing block valves can be controlled remotely; and
- whether PHMSA should add prescriptive decision criteria for an operator's evaluation of additional valves, remote closure, and and/or valve automation and whether PHMSA should set specific guidelines for valve locations around HCAs.
I. Corrosion Control
PHMSA is considering revising the corrosion control regulations in Subpart I of Part 192 to improve the specificity of existing requirements as well as to improve the understanding of SCC and mitigate its occurrence. PHMSA is considering whether to establish standards and procedures through a rulemaking proceeding and add requirements to perform periodic coating surveys at compressor discharges and other high-temperature areas that potentially susceptible to SCC. PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things:
- whether Subpart I should be revised to provide greater specificity, such as prescribing requirements for post-construction surveys for coating damage or the adequacy of CP, requiring periodic interference current surveys, or additional measures to prevent internal corrosion;
- whether PHMSA should prescribe practices or standards to address the prevention, detection, assessment, and remediation of SCC, and if so, what should be addressed;
- whether PHMSA should prescribe for HCAs and non-HCAs external corrosion control survey timing intervals for close intervals in order to determine the effectiveness of CP, or corrosion control measures with clearly defined conditions and appropriate mitigation efforts;
- whether the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association practices address the full lifecycle concerns associated with SCC and if there are additional industry practices that address SCC;
- whether to require operators to perform a critical analysis of all factors that influence SCC to determine if SCC is a credible threat for each pipeline segment, and if so, why;
- whether to require an integrity assessment using methods that are capable of detecting SCC whenever a credible threat for SCC is identified; and
- whether to require a periodic analysis of the effectiveness of operator corrosion management programs and to require operators to periodically submit corrosion management performance metric data.
J. Pipe Manufactured Using Longitudinal Weld Seams
PHMSA is considering additional IM and pressure testing requirements for pipe that was manufactured using longitudinal seam welding techniques and not pressure tested after construction and prior to being placed into service in accordance with Subpart J. PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things, whether:
- all pipelines that have not been pressure tested at or above 1.1 times MAOP or class location test criteria should be tested in accordance with present regulations, and if not, whether certain types of pipe shown to be susceptible to systemic integrity issues should be required to be pressure tested in accordance with the present regulations;
- alternative minimum test pressures other than those in Subpart J are appropriate;
- ILI can be used to find seam integrity issues, and if so, what ILI technology should be used and what inspection and acceptance criteria should be applied; and
- additional pressure test requirements should be applied to all pipelines, or only pipelines in HCAs, or only pipelines in Class 2, 3, or 4 location areas.
K. Requirements Applicable to Underground Gas Storage
PHMSA is considering establishing requirements within Part 192 that will apply to underground gas storage in order to help assure the safety of underground storage and provide a firm basis for safety regulation. PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things:
- whether PHMSA should develop federal standards to govern the safety of underground gas storage facilities, and if so, whether the standards should be voluntary and what portions of the facilities should be addressed in the standards;
- whether wellhead valves should have primary and secondary emergency shutdowns, and whether there should be integrity and O&M intervals for key safety and CP systems; and
- whether the current lack of federal standards and preemption provisions in federal law preclude effective regulation of underground storage by the individual states.
L. Management of Change
PHMSA pipeline safety regulations do not address management process subjects such as the management of change. PHMSA is considering adding requirements in this area to provide a greater degree of control over this element of pipeline risk. PHMSA is requesting comments on whether the pipeline industry uses standards to guide management processes including the management of change, and whether standards governing the management of change process include requirements for IM procedures, O&M manuals, facility drawings, emergency response plans and procedures, and documents required to be maintained over the life of the pipeline. PHMSA is seeking further comments on whether standards used in other industries, such as OSHA standards at 29 C.F.R. § 1910.119, would be appropriate for use in the pipeline industry.
M. Quality Management Systems ("QMS")
PHMSA is considering whether and how to impose requirements related to QMS, especially their design and application to control equipment and materials used in new construction and to control the work product of contractors that is used to construct, operate, and maintain the pipeline system. PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things:
- whether to establish requirements for QMS, and if so, whether the requirements should apply to all gas transmission pipelines and the complete life cycle of a pipeline system;
- whether standards exist that PHMSA could adopt or from which PHMSA could adapt concepts for QMS; and
N. Exemption of Facilities Installed Prior to the Regulations
PHMSA is considering changing its regulations to eliminate the exemption in Part 192 that allows a pipeline to operate at the highest pressure to which it was subjected during the five years prior to July 1, 1970, and that allows some onshore gathering lines, which were redefined as transmission lines, to establish MAOP at the highest actual pressure experienced in the five years prior to the redefinition, as well as to eliminate the exemption for using materials that had been warehoused prior to 1970. PHMSA is requesting comments on, among other things, whether:
- PHMSA should repeal provisions in Part 192 that allow the use of materials manufactured prior to 1970 that do not otherwise meet all requirements in part 192;
- PHMSA should repeal the MAOP exemption for pre-1970 pipelines or whether pre-1970 pipelines that operate above 72% SMYS should be allowed to continue to operate at those levels without increased safety evaluations;
- pipelines that have not been pressure tested in accordance with subpart J should be required to be tested in accordance with present regulations; and
- a pipeline with a vintage history of systemic integrity issues in areas such as longitudinal weld seams or steel quality, and that has not been pressure tested at or above 1.1 times MAOP or class location test criteria, should be required to be tested.
O. Modifying the Regulation of Gas Gathering Lines
PHMSA has determined that recent developments in the field of gas exploration and production, such as those concerning shale gas, indicate that the existing framework for regulating gas gathering lines may no longer be appropriate. In addition, enforcement of the current requirements has been hampered by the conflicting and ambiguous language of API RP 80, and PHMSA has also identified a regulatory gap that permits the potential abuse of the incidental gathering line designation under that standard. PHMSA is also requesting comments on, among other things, whether it should:
- amend 49 C.F.R. Part 191 to require the submission of annual, incident, and safety-related conditions reports by the operators of all gathering lines, and whether PHMSA should amend 49 C.F.R. Part 192 to include a new definition for the term “gathering line”;
- establish a new, risk-based regime of safety requirements for large-diameter, high-pressure gas gathering lines in rural locations, and if so, what requirements should be imposed;
- consider short sections of pipeline downstream of processing, compression, and similar equipment to be a continuation of gathering lines, and if so, what risk factors should be considered in defining the scope of the limitation;
- consider adopting specific requirements for pipelines associated with landfill gas systems;
- enhance its requirements for internal corrosion control for gathering pipelines and if so, should the enhanced requirements include cleaning on a regular basis; and
- apply its Gas Integrity Management Requirements to onshore gas gathering lines, and if so, to what extent should those regulations be applied.
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