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A natural gas explosion in a home earlier this month has renewed concerns about Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s (PG&E) ability to maintain adequate records for its natural gas pipeline system.
Records maintenance has been an issue for the utility since the 2010 San Bruno, CA, pipeline explosion. The latest incident involved a distribution gas pipeline and no one was injured. A one-bedroom cottage home was destroyed when utility workers cut into a nearby cast iron pipe that previously had been fitted with a plastic pipe insert. A combination of utility and contract workers were in the area as part of PG&E's ongoing distribution main replacement.
A PG&E spokesperson acknowledged that this was a case of the utility's pipeline records not matching what was in the ground, but he said it was not clear that the main replacement work contributed to the explosion. PG&E has hired a third-party investigator to review the situation as the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) safety staff pursues its own investigation.
Even with another incident involving incorrect pipe records (see Daily GPI, Sept. 6, 2013), the PG&E spokesperson stressed that the company has digitized the records for almost all of its transmission and distribution pipelines, and it will have all 42,000 miles of distribution pipe records upgraded by the end of this year.
City officials in the resort seaside community of Carmel along California's central coast where the incident occurred said the incident may call into question the records on thousands of miles of pipe in the PG&E system.
The CPUC said the flawed records would be a central part of its investigation. "It is PG&E's responsibility and duty to know what they have in the ground and where it's located,” the agency said.