FERC approves New York/New Jersey Pipeline

July 2012, Vol. 67, No. 7

The leak and valve studies were mandated by Section 8 of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 that Congress passed last December. Section 8 requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a DOT agency, to prepare a report to Congress on leak detection systems and the Government Accountability Office to submit a second study on automatic and remotely-controlled valves. It appears, however, that PHMSA has decided to also do a study on valves. PHMSA held a public workshop on March 27-28 to gather industry input on how to structure the parameters of the two studies on which the report will be based.

Philip Bennett, managing senior counsel, operations safety, American Gas Association, calls the workshop "useful." But he adds, “they provide little opportunity for technical discussion and no opportunity to resolve complex technical issues. Most of the substantive discussions that occur on technical issues in the pipeline industry occur in the meetings held within the consensus development organizations like GPTC, ASME, API, AGA, NACE and ASTM."

In addition, Terry Boss, senior vice president of safety, environment and operations at INGAA, says some of the comments made at the March workshop were conflicting. For example, one person argued real-time transient flow/pressure models were essential to internal leak detection systems and should be employed. Another opinion was these models may be almost useless on natural gas transmission systems. "INGAA believes that these leak detection models do not reduce risk or reliably detect leaks on natural gas transmission systems due to the compressible nature of natural gas, the complexities of pipeline systems and transient gas flow, and the inherit, industry-available tolerances within measurement and other transducers that provide input into such models," explains Boss.

The congressional language calls for PHMSA to look at two things:
• The technical limitations of current leak detection systems utilized by operators of hazardous liquid pipeline facilities and transportation-related flow lines, including the ability of the systems to detect ruptures and small leaks that are ongoing or intermittent, and what can be done to foster development of better technologies; and
• Analyze the practicability of establishing technically, operationally and economically feasible standards for the capability of such systems to detect leaks, and the safety benefits and adverse consequences of requiring operators to use leak detection systems.

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