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Proposed Rule Would Expand Installation of Pipeline Safety Valves

The Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced a proposed rulemaking to expand the use of excess flow valves for natural gas distribution lines.

Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said it has developed a recommended practice with input from PHMSA, the DOT's National Transportation Safety Board and other stakeholders.

PHMSA said its proposal would require the deployment of excess flow valves beyond some types of single-family homes to include additional homes and small commercial gas customers. The proposal would also include the installation of manual service line shut-off valves, also known as curb valves, on new or replaced gas lines that provide service to customers that use large quantities of gas, such as industrial users.

Specifically, the proposed rule calls for expanding Section 192.383(a), governing the installation of excess flow valves, to "include new or replaced branched service lines servicing single-family residences, multi-family residences, and small commercial entities consuming gas volumes not exceeding 1,000 standard cubic feet/hour (scf/hr)." It would also require curb valves "for new or replaced service lines with meter capacities exceeding 1,000 scf/hr.

Another part of the proposed rule calls for operators to notify customers of their right to request installation of an excess flow valve on service lines that are not being newly installed or replaced. PHMSA said it is "proposing to delegate the question of who bears the cost of installing excess flow valves to service lines that are not being newly installed or replaced to the operator, customer, and the appropriate state regulatory agency."

PHMSA said the excess flow and curb valves would restrict the flow of gas if a line is broken or damaged, limiting the impact of a leak or explosion.

"Safety is our top priority and this important action will add extra protections to communities serviced by the nation's largest network of pipelines," said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Over 2.2 million miles of natural gas distribution pipelines, including service lines, operate in the U.S. and the use of these devices can have a significant impact on reducing the consequences of natural gas leaks, should they occur."

The proposed rule has been transmitted to the Federal Register for publication. A 60-day public comment period will immediately follow.

Separately Wednesday, API said its recommended practice would establish a pipeline safety management system (PSMS) framework for operators of hazardous liquids and gas pipelines that fall under the DOT's jurisdiction.

"At the foundation of a PSMS is the operator's existing pipeline safety system, including the operator’s pipeline safety processes and procedures," API said. "This recommended practice provides a comprehensive framework and defines the elements needed to identify and address safety for a pipeline's life cycle.

"These safety management system requirements identify what is to be done, and leaves the details associated with implementation and maintenance of the requirements to the individual pipeline operators."

API Midstream Director Robin Rorick added that the new standard "gives operators a holistic framework to identify and address safety concerns for a pipeline’s entire life cycle."

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy and Power Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a pipeline safety hearing on July 14.

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