A California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) judge recommended Friday that Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) be allowed to increase maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) at its Topock receipt transmission pipeline along the Arizona-California border. The CPUC will take up the recommendation when it meets Oct. 6.

A PG&E spokesperson told NGI the San Francisco-based combination utility will have to separately ask the CPUC to now allow it to also raise the MAOP on its transmission pipeline (Line 300A and B) running from Topock up to interconnection points with the PG&E transmission backbone system in Northern California. It earlier had been reported that a CPUC hearing Monday covered Line 300, but it only took up the issue of raising pressure at the receipt point (see Daily GPI, Sept. 21).

CPUC Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Maribeth Bushey concluded that it was safe for the utility to restore the pressure on the Topock receipt line up to 660 psig, its historical operating pressure. PG&E has had the operating pressure lowered on Line 300 and nearly a dozen other pipelines since earlier this year when the CPUC ordered it to do so following investigations of the San Bruno pipeline explosion a year ago.

“Our goal is to restore pressure on our backbone system before demand increases for gas this winter,” the PG&E spokesperson said. “We tested that facility at 1,180 psig and 1,400 psig, and if we followed the state code on this, we were only required to test to 990 psig, so our tests went well above and beyond federal and state requirements.”

He said the testing also provides a tremendous amount of safety on the utility’s pipeline system. ALJ Bushey said the MAOP could be restored on the suction side of the Topock border facilities. Coming out of Topock are actually two transmission pipelines (Line 300 A and B), and a portion of one of the lines was hydrostatically tested successfully on Wednesday, according to PG&E.

“PG&E explained that all segments were successfully tested to pressure above the minimum required to confirm the safe operation of the Topock station,” Bushey wrote in her 11-page proposed decision. She said the CPUC Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD) reviewed the pressure test information provided by the utility.

The ALJ cited a CPSD memo to the utility Sept. 12, citing a number of alleged “deficiencies” in PG&E’s testing protocols and records (see Daily GPI, Sept. 19), but the safety staff had now determined “the tests conducted by PG&E had demonstrated adequate assurance of the fitness for operation of these facilities at the restored [660 psig] MAOP.”

The staff and ALJ proposed decision do not conclude that a so-called spike test should be conducted.

“PG&E has presented complete pressure test results for the 11 segments pressure tested for the suction side of the Topock compressor station that had not been previously tested,” Bushey said. Nevertheless, the CPSD still found some alleged “pressure testing deficiencies,” and the ALJ ordered PG&E to “remedy all deficiencies noted” in the filings for its future MAOP restoration requests.

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