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DOT to Consider Raising Operating Pressure for Gas Pipes

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has scheduled a public meeting Tuesday in Reston, VA, to explore the possibility of raising the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) for certain natural gas pipelines -- a move that would allow more gas to flow through the pipelines and potentially reduce the need for new construction in some cases.

The DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is mulling over the possibility of adjusting the MAOP for certain natural gas pipelines that satisfy increased design and construction standards.

The Pipeline Research Council International has found that pipelines can be operated safely and reliably at pressure levels of up to 80% of specified minimum yield strength (SMYS) if the pipe has well-established metallurgical properties and can be managed to protect it against known threats, such as corrosion and mechanical damage, according to the PHMSA.

Current pipeline regulations in the United States generally restrict operating pressure to 72% of the SMYS of the pipeline. However, some U.S. pipelines that were in place prior to this standard currently operate at a higher pressure. The MAOP in Canada is 80% of SMYS, and a number of other countries are considering operating at higher levels than 72% SMYS, the PHMSA noted.

The PHMSA said it will explore the "reliability and integrity implications" of operating pipelines located in remote locations at pressure levels between 72% and 80% of SMYS.

The DOT agency said three categories of gas pipelines would see an "immediate benefit" from a rise in operating pressure: the proposed Alaska gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48 states; new gas pipelines that are being certificated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and gas pipelines constructed since 1980 with line pipe of known metallurgical and mechanical properties.

The March 21 public meeting will be held at the Hyatt Regency Reston Hotel in Reston, located just west of Washington, DC, near Dulles Airport. For further information about the meeting, contact Joy Kadnar, DOT's director of engineering and emergency support, at (202) 366-4595 or joy.kadnar@dot.gov.

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