The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on Monday submitted an advisory bulletin to the Federal Register, emphasizing to pipeline and pipeline facility operators requirements to reduce methane emissions.

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“Minimizing methane emissions from pipelines will help improve safety and combat climate change, while creating jobs for pipeline workers,” said PHMSA Acting Administrator Tristan Brown. “Pipeline operators have an obligation to protect the public and the environment by identifying and addressing methane leaks.” 

The PHMSA noted the emissions requirements were signed into law as part of the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020. The law directs pipeline operators to update inspection and maintenance plans to eliminate hazardous leaks and minimize natural gas releases – both intentional and unintentional.

The plans must also address the replacement or remediation of pipelines at facilities that have reported past leaks. PHMSA said pipelines made from cast iron, bare steel, certain vintage plastic and other legacy materials are “known to cause a disproportionately large share of incidents involving methane leaks.”

In the advisory, PHMSA noted that operators are required to comply with the PIPES Act by Dec. 27, 2021.  

The U.S. onshore oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of domestic methane emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. PHMSA said methane has nearly 30 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.  

PHMSA said its advisory applies to all of the 2.8 million-mile pipeline network in the United States, as well as more than 17,000 underground natural gas wells and 164 liquefied natural gas facilities. It noted regulators will begin reviewing operators’ plans for compliance in 2022.   

PHMSA’s advisory bulletin will be published Friday in the Federal Register