OPS Steps Up Inspection of Gas Pipes, Duke Exec Says
Although a proposed rulemaking process to beef up safety inspections
of natural gas pipelines isn't expected to get under way until early 2001,
a Duke Energy executive says the Department of Transportation's Office
of Pipeline Safety (OPS) already has taken it upon itself to step up its
oversight of interstate gas lines.
"I think they've already acted on that. They're inspecting much
more frequently already and much more aggressively," said Andrew Drake,
director of mapping codes and metallurgical services for Duke Energy, who
spoke at the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) hearing on pipeline
safety in Washington D.C. recently (see NGI, Nov.
Agency plans to seek additional funding to double the number of federal
inspectors from 55 to 110 are an indication "they intend to increase
that even more," he told NGI. "They intend to get much more involved
in reviewing our practices [beyond] just compliance with the prescriptive
At the hearing, "I think they [OPS officials] were pretty clear
that they felt they would be issuing something in the spring of 2001 for
natural gas pipelines," Drake said. He believes it will be a proposed
rulemaking that will be "very similar" to the final rule recently
issued for large hazardous liquid pipelines, requiring mandatory inspections
at least once every five years.
He voiced concerns about NTSB Acting Chairman Jim Hall's belief that
in-line inspection, specifically smart pigging, was the only method for
accurately detecting problems on gas pipelines. He "seemed to equate
inspection with pigging. He seemed to feel like the only adequate inspection
But Drake said he and other speakers addressing pipeline integrity at
the NTSB hearing "rallied around the point" that while "in-line
[inspection] is an important and valuable tool, it does have limits."
The drawback is that it "has a hard time finding certain types of
anomalies in the pipeline."
There "is no silver bullet...We can't rely on in-line inspection
to solve all of our problems," Drake noted. Other inspection methods
widely used by natural gas pipelines include hydrostatic testing, direct
assessment, risk management and risk assessment techniques.
"The U.S. gas pipeline infrastructure was not designed to accommodate
internal access. So a lot of pipelines are not piggable, but that doesn't
mean we aren't going to inspect them," he said.
"We have to find another way to inspect them. We can't just excuse
our obligation of ensuring integrity where we can't pig...Ensuring [pipeline]
integrity is a complex business. It's not a simple issue of just mandating
a singular tool. It's a matter of embracing the whole of risk management."
©Copyright 2000 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed in whole
or in part without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.