A new "norm" in natural gas pipeline safety programs needs to be a proactive, sustainable approach to leak detection, said PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). It calls for a "cultural transformation" in pipeline operators.
Citing greatly advanced leak detection technology, the report concludes that the question for operators is how to most effectively deploy the new tools to become what it called "a key enabler of pipeline safety" in PwC's "Beyond Compliance: Creating a new norm in leak management."
The report concentrates on leak detection at the distribution utility level where it concludes that today "no one knows how many leaks are actually in the system." Traditional methods and technology fail to detect many existing leaks, PwC said.
PwC developed a three-phase approach to leak detection and had it tested by Houston-based CenterPoint Energy. The report describes CenterPoint's experience as a case study for creating the new norm in which leaks are found earlier and over time there are fewer, smaller and less hazardous leaks in the system.
"Advanced leak detection technology can be a game-changer for leak management," the report said. "Utilities can leverage advanced leak detection technologies to reduce the gap and promote safety."
CenterPoint is now in the process of spreading the program throughout its six utility jurisdictions in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
In the first phase, pilots were run in two utility jurisdictions, applying the advanced leak detection methodology in both cold and warm environments, then establishing a business case and redesigning safety management processes. In the second phase, CenterPoint adopted a strategy for winning regulatory support for the deployment of advanced technology, and in the last phase, the implementation company-wide was planned.