Under mandate from state regulators, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) on Monday made public its top-100 list for priority work on parts of more than 20,000 pipeline segments in its system. The pipeline segment in San Bruno that failed 12 days ago was not on the list.
The utility announced a hotline for customers to call in with any questions and concerns about transmission pipelines in their neighborhoods, and it made public the list of priority projects and how PG&E juggles the prioritization and repair/replacement work. Separately, Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (SDG&E) said it plans to provide "additional customer safety communications" for those located near gas transmission facilities.
"Beginning today, our customers will be able to call into a hotline telephone number to get information on whether they are within 500 feet of gas transmission pipelines," said PG&E utility CEO Christopher Johns. The pipeline locational maps are also being made available on the utility website.
PG&E said potential pipeline segments needing work are placed on the top-100 list based on "a wide range of criteria" that include the potential for third-party damage from other contractors, pipe conditions, specific design and physical characteristics, proximity to areas more prone to ground movement, and locations relative to high-density populations or environmentally sensitive areas.
Referring to a filing of information requested late Friday by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Johns said the combination utility " made public our annual planning document used to prioritize engineering. resources and to plan for future work on gas transmission pipelines." He and other utility officials said PG&E wants to be transparent with the news media and its customers by releasing what was supplied to the CPUC.
CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon assured consumers "that the list is not of pipelines that are at risk or dangerous; the list is a tool used by PG&E to prioritize maintenance, repair or monitoring of its gas pipelines." Clanon added that the CPUC intends to review the list and "ensure that PG&E is monitoring their system effectively," and he is going to ask the state's other major gas utilities (Sempra's Southern California Gas Co. and SDG&E) to provide similar planning lists to the regulatory commission.
On Friday the state regulatory commission's executive director requested in a letter to Johns a "top-100 list of high-priority pipeline projects," as well as more historic data on the pipeline that failed in San Bruno, CA -- Line 132, a 30-inch diameter high-pressure transmission pipeline, one of three running through San Mateo County 10 miles south of San Francisco. The explosion and ensuing fire killed at least four people and destroyed or badly damaged up to 50 homes.
The top-100 list that was created the end of last year includes a segment of Line 132 about 2.8 miles north of the rupture area. That segment is between Mileposts 41.13 and 42.55 on Line 132, and the failure was at Milepost 39.25, a PG&E spokesperson said.
At a news conference in San Francisco Monday, Johns said the utility now has surveyed all but two miles that are inaccessible of the three transmission pipelines running north-south in the peninsula region leading up to San Francisco, and only problem detected was what he called "one small leak" at a valve. "We will soon begin doing manual walk throughs as well," he said.
In response to making the pipeline information public, PG&E plans to meet with local city officials and emergence response personnel to answer any questions they may have.
"In order to maintain the safety of the system, we will go below the federal pressure guidelines for our gas transmission pipelines," Johns said. In another first-time move, PG&E announced it was making available maps of high-pressure transmission pipeline locations on it website.
The federal maximum pressure limit in pounds per square inch (psi) is 400 psi. PG&E's usual maximum operating pressure for its pipeline system is 375 psi, a spokesperson said. In response to the CPUC's request, the utility has reduced pipelines in the greater San Francisco Bay Area to 300 psi, and that will remain in effect indefinitely.
On Monday the CPUC released audits it has conducted of the PG&E pipeline division that include Line 132 in San Bruno -- one completed in 2008 and another, 2010 work, still being finalized. They include the utility's response to the audits and the fact that PG&E was cited for not complying with minimum gas safety requirements under federal regulations (Title 49, Section 192), and for "not maintaining adequate documentation and inspecting gas facilities within required time intervals."
The CPUC noted that the violations were not considered hazardous to the public, but were in violation of federal pipeline safety regulations nonetheless. The CPUC conducts audits of selected sections of each investor-owned utility's gas transmission and distribution systems roughly every two years, the regulatory body's spokesperson said.
©Copyright 2010 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.