Texas Adopts Pipeline Integrity Rules

Texas has become the second state in the country to enact an integrity management plan for its pipelines, after the Texas Railroad Commission unanimously adopted rules last week that strengthen the safety program. So far, California is the only other state to adopt a pipeline integrity management program.

The TRC rules cover all intrastate natural gas transmission lines, intrastate hazardous liquid lines and jurisdictional gathering lines. It requires operators to conduct internal inspections, pressure tests or other forms of assessment on a regular basis. The new rules will cover more than 150,000 miles of pipe in the state.

Under the adopted rules, pipeline operators may select a prescriptive testing plan, a risk-based testing plan or a combination of both plans. Under the prescriptive plan, initial testing must be completed by Jan. 1, 2006 or Jan. 1, 2011, depending on the required frequency.

Required frequency for prescriptive testing is every five or 10 years depending on pipe size, pressure, proximity to urban areas, location (onshore, offshore, rural), proximity to water crossings and type of product transported. Prescriptive testing methods include internal inspections or pressure tests.

Under the risk-based plan, operators must submit a plan by Jan. 1, 2002 and must update it every 36 months. At least 50% of the initial assessments must be completed by Jan. 1, 2006 and the remaining 50% must be completed by Jan. 1, 2011.

Required frequency for risk-based testing is based on the same factors in prescriptive plans, plus consideration to additional risk factors. The plans may include internal inspection by tools capable of detecting defects, pressure tests for leaks and overall pipe strength, direct assessment through physical examination in specific locations, or by technology developed in the future.

California's rules, which are not as comprehensive as Texas' rules, require operators of liquid pipelines to conduct hydrostatic tests every five years. The U.S. Department of Transportation also has adopted a rule for all states that applies to liquid pipelines with more than 500 miles of pipe in high-population and unusually environmentally sensitive areas.

For more information on the Texas rules, visit the Railroad Commission's web site.

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