FERC Approves Second of Three Oregon LNG/Pipeline Projects

PHMSA Announces Final Control Room Management Rule, Controversial Elements Dumped From DIMP
February 2010 Vol. 65 No. 2

Controversial Elements Dumped From DIMP
The distribution integrity management program (DIMP) final rule the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published in December was shorn of a number of controversial elements. The agency ditched what some companies called "vague and unenforceable" human factor requirements in integrity management (IM) programs, a requirement to report plastic pipe failures to PHMSA instead of the existing Plastic Pipe Database Committee (PPDC), and a requirement to report any excavation damages (not just those resulting in gas leaks) to PHMSA as one of the IM performance reporting measures the agency established in this final rule. In the final rule, the definition of excavation damage is brought more closely in line with the one used by the Common Ground Alliance's (CGA) Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) which defines damage based on whether repair or replacement of an underground facility is required.

The DIMP rule covers all one million plus miles owned by intrastate gas companies but does not require internal inspection of pipeline (as the gas transmission IM program does), mostly because the smaller diameter distribution pipes don't take PIGs. Instead, distribution companies will have 18 months (by Aug. 2, 2011) to develop an IM plan using some general parameters suggested by PHMSA. These include four specific performance reporting measures, including one on leak management.

Probably the most consequential aspect of the final rule is that it pulls in an otherwise unconnected element that companies install excess flow valves (EFVs) on single family lines when those lines are repaired, or put in for the first time. The company has to pay for that construction. That mandate goes into effect on Feb. 10. Up until now, companies only had to notify customers that EFVs were available and if the customer wanted an EFV the customer paid for its installation.

Once an IM plan is written, then there has to be a plan to reduce the risks identified in the plan, including an effective leak management program. Once a risk reduction plan is in effect, its results have to be measured based on performance measures, many of which PHMSA spells out, including the number of hazardous leaks either eliminated or repaired. An annual report has to be sent in disclosing the company's success on four of the specified performance measures. The threats and risks have to be re evaluated every five years.