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PG&E Ties Loose Ends, Eyes Mid-Year Deadline in Pipe Review

Completed pressure test records have been confirmed on another 134 miles of transmission pipelines since data became available in mid-March, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) said Tuesday in a status report it filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The latest data is as of the end of April.

PG&E said it is continuing its records collection and other related work while the CPUC's Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD) continues to disagree with the combination utility's proposed approach for validating maximum allowable operating pressures (MAOP) on pipelines running through highly populated areas, such as the San Bruno, CA residential neighborhood in which PG&E's Line 132 ruptured, killing eight people and destroying most of a residential area.

In an April 26 letter from the CPSD, Director Richard Clark pushed back against PG&E's plans (see Daily GPI, April 29) by insisting that the San Francisco-based utility hydrostatically test up to 705 miles of pipeline in high-consequence areas (HCA).

"We will be working with the commission to better understand the impacts this may have on PG&E's operations, as well as to the natural gas transmission industry as a whole," a PG&E spokesperson told NGI in late April. "Meanwhile, we have already taken many steps to further enhance the safety of our system, including an aggressive plan to hydrostatically test or replace 152 miles of gas pipeline in 2011, etc."

In its latest report Tuesday, PG&E said that regarding the 152 miles of "priority 1" pipe segments, it has now located completed pressure test records for five miles that no longer need to be hydro tested. The utility also said it has located an added 41 miles of pressure test records where the pressure test documentation is verified, but "strength test pressure report" footage does not equal the pipeline HCA footage.

Nevertheless, PG&E offered that prospect for reducing the number of miles that ultimately will have to undergo costly and time-consuming hydrostatic testing through its ongoing work, including the expansion of the so-called Pipeline Features List (PFL). "As of April 30, the PFLs are under development for all 152 miles of priority 1 segments.

PG&E now hopes to be able to provide final results for all priority 1 segments by the end of June this year.

Eventual changes in the overall PG&E transmission pipeline system as a result of the MAOP validation effort are still unknown, the utility told the CPUC. It needs to first complete the MAOP validation work called for on 705 miles of pipeline in the proposed compliance plan still awaiting final CPUC approval. The system changes cannot be outlined until that validation work is completed.

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