Feds update rules governing pipelines

August 1, 2004 By    

The Research and Special Programs Administration has updated its pipeline maintenance and repair regulations to take advantage of the latest technology and construction standards, including the use of plastics in certain situations.

Among the new provisions:

  • Operators must use the welding procedures outlined under Section 5 of the American Petroleum Institute 1104 standard or Section IX of the ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code.
  • Welders will have to stay in practice. They can’t weld on pipe to be operated at a pressure that produces a hop stress of 20 percent or more of SMYS unless the welder has tested a weld and found it acceptable within the last six months. Welders could stay qualified if they welded twice a year with not more than seven and a half months between welds. Previously-qualified welders can continue to work but can’t re-qualify under previous standards.
  • Only individuals “qualified by appropriate training and experience”
    can visually inspect welds.
  • Operators can place plastic pipe across bridges, as recent developments
    in thermoplastic pipe justify it.
  • Pressure testing will suffice as a strength test for components. Prototype testing will do for parts made in bulk.

The rules took effect July 14. Details can be found at http://ops.dot.gov.

Meanwhile, Congress conducted several hearings into RSPA’s efforts to improve pipeline safety.

“Today, we spend 240 hours on a comprehensive integrity management inspection, in contrast to 32 hours in 1996,” RSPA Administrator Samuel Bonasso testified. In three years, the Office of Pipeline Safety “responded positively to 41 National Transportation Safety Board safety recommendations and are working to close the remaining 10,” he said.

He added that in the last five years, hazardous materials incidents decreased
25 percent. RSPA expects to complete reviews of interstate pipeline operator
qualification programs by the 2006 statutory deadline and has completed the
National Pipeline Mapping System.

RSPA recently commissioned a study from the Transportation Research Board on encroachment and maintenance on pipeline rights-of-way.

It also is starting a crisis communications initiative to deal with accidents
and plans to roll out this year a national three-digit emergency number to call (probably 811) to report pipeline emergencies.

The added enforcement means operators will have to increase their safety programs.

“Our experience suggests that many repairs will be required under our
integrity management regulations – potentially tens of thousand of repairs annually, and perhaps clustering in a particular region of the country,” Bonasso told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.

Ken Mead, inspector general for the Department of Transportation, warned, that most “operators are using ‘smart pigs’ to assess pipelines…but smart
pigs are not a silver bullet that can identify all pipeline integrity threats.
Smart pigs currently in use can successfully detect and measure corrosion, dents, and wrinkles but are less reliable in detecting other types of mechanical damage. As a result, certain integrity threats still go undetected after a baseline integrity inspection, and pipeline accidents may occur.”

Inspectors found about 20,000 threats in 25,000 miles of hazmat lines explored and have 135,000 miles to go, he warned, noting that the inspected lines may not be representative of the un-inspected ones.

Briefly Speaking

  • House bill lacks propane breaks
    The House has approved a tax bill, the American
    Jobs Creation Act, which does not include any of the tax breaks for the propane industry in the Senate-passed Jumpstart Our Business Strength (JOBS) Act.
    But the House version would extend an existing break. Current law allows buyers of clean-fuel vehicles a deduction of up to $50,000 depending on the size of the vehicle. But the deduction phases down in years 2004 through 2006. The House bill would extend the 100 percent benefit through 2005 and reduce it to 25 percent in 2006.
  • Funding for 2005 programs
    The House has approved a 2005 Interior Department
    funding bill with slight funding increases for most programs. The levels include $227.3 million for Weatherization ($63 million below the president’s request) and $44.798 million for State Energy Programs.
    The bill also notes that Weatherization has
    not been evaluated for 10 years and needs a new study. The Energy Information Administration would get $85 million.
  • Homeland Security budget
    The House also approved a 2005 Department of
    Homeland Security funding bill that directs the department to work with DOT to clarify their respective roles in developing security precautions for hazmat
    Meanwhile, in an effort to pressure the Senate,
    the House re-passed substantially the same Energy Policy Act agreed to last year by a conference but stymied in the Senate.
  • Stock build remains weak
    The build of propane stock slowed each week
    in June and the first week of July. Inventories as of July 9 totaled about
    44.5 million barrels, about 2 million barrels below same time last year.
    According to the Energy Information Administration,
    drop in imports and strong demand for petrochemical feedstock blunted the build. Imports are typically very strong this time of year with inventories showing some of the strongest gains during July as primary stockholders build inventories in preparation for the next winter heating season.

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