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DOT Proposal Would Subject LNG to Reporting Requirements

The Department of Transportation (DOT) last Thursday published a proposed rule that would make operators of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals subject to the same safety reporting requirements as operators of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines.

"LNG operators are currently exempt from annual and incident reporting requirements, whereas the operators of gas transmission, gas distribution and hazardous liquid pipelines are required to report summary data annually and any incidents or accidents that meet reporting requirements specified in pipeline safety regulations. Given the increased number of LNG plants under construction...this proposal removes the existing exemption for this reporting for operators of LNG facilities," the DOT's Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said in the proposed rule, which was published in the Federal Register.

The proposed rule also revises the definition of a "reportable incident" to include an "explosion or fire not intentionally set by the operator." And it establishes a volumetric threshold of 3,000 Mcf [3 MMcf] for reporting unintentional gas loss. "Adding 'explosion or fire not intentionally set by the operator' as a category to the definition of a reportable incident will enable PHMSA to gain information on significant incidents, as fires and explosions are major adverse outcomes that significantly raise the risk of death or injury from a pipeline failure," PHMSA said in its notice of proposed rulemaking.

"This revision would also make the natural gas pipeline incident reporting requirement consistent with the reporting requirement for hazardous liquid pipelines," the agency noted.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America recommended that 20 MMcf of lost gas be the reporting threshold, but the PHMSA said it "believes that 3 MMcf more accurately represents the median volumes of gas lost reported [in] transmission incident reports since 2002."

The DOT agency further is proposing to merge the gas transmission Integrity Management semi-annual performance measures with the annual reports. Currently gas pipeline operators must file semi-annually on four measures of their integrity management performance: the number of pipeline miles inspected; the number of immediate repairs completed; the number of scheduled repairs completed; and the number of leaks, failures and incidents in the high-consequences areas.

"This regulatory change will reduce the reporting burden of the industry from twice a year to once a year and will allow PHMSA to identify the location of the inspection, repairs, leaks, failure and incidents in a high-consequence areas," it said.

And the proposed rule calls for participation in a National Registry of Pipeline and LNG Operators. It would require regulated pipeline and LNG operators to obtain a single Operator Identification (OPID) number from the PHMSA to submit reports, including annual reports, incident and accident reports, and filings on safety-related conditions.

There would only be one OPID per company, rather than multiple OPIDs, which would reduce the burden on PHMSA. It "will also require operators to notify PHMSA when they experience significant asset changes that affect PHMSA's ability to accurately monitor and assess pipeline safety performance," the agency said.

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