INGAA Locks Horns with PHMSA

March 2011, Vol. 66 No. 3

Proposed changes for Hazardous Liquids IM Program
While gas transmission pipelines are worried about advisory bulletins, hazardous liquid pipelines are fretting about new PHMSA regulations that are in the offing. The PHMSA had already indicated last October that it planned to tighten provisions of the hazardous liquid integrity management program. The advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) issued on Oct. 18, 2010, suggested a number of significant changes, so much so that industry players asked PHMSA to extend the comment deadline, which was slated to end on Jan. 18, for 60 days. On the same day the PHMSA released its "San Bruno" advisory bulletin, it also announced that it would extend the comment period for the liquid line ANPR, but only for one month, to Feb. 18.

That ANPR contained a laundry list of hazardous liquid IM program upgrades PHMSA was considering such as: steps extending regulation to certain pipelines currently exempt from regulation; whether other areas along a pipeline should either be identified for extra protection or be included as additional high consequence areas (HCAs) for Integrity Management (IM) protection; whether to establish and/or adopt standards and procedures for minimum leak detection requirements for all pipelines; and whether to establish and/or adopt standards and procedures for improving the methods of preventing, detecting, assessing and remediating stress corrosion cracking (SCC) in hazardous liquid pipeline systems.

Leak detection measures could be at the top of PHMSA's list of things to address given the leak that occurred in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in January. That leak shut down the pipeline for a number of days, which was unusual. Fortunately, the leak was, in terms of the environment and public safety, relatively minor, though the shutdown cost the five companies who own the oil that runs through the pipeline considerable money, as it did the state of Alaska. The Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. said the leak was hard to get at because the leaking pipeline was underground and encased in cement. Also raising the profile of oil pipeline leak detection was the $435,000 fine for Chevron Pipe Line PHMSA proposed on Nov. 1, 2010. There, Chevron had identified leak detection inadequacies in a line in 2007 but failed to take remedial action.