Lower Prices, Consumption, Near-Term Construction Lessens 2010 Spending Levels

By Rita Tubb, Managing Editor | February 2010 Vol. 65 No. 2
VESTAMID PA12 pipe ends are shown being jointed using heat fusion.

The latest statistics compiled by the Pipeline Hazardous Marerials Safety Administration (PHMSA) indicate that from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31 the LDC sector accounted for 117 incidents resulting in 40 injuries and nine fatalities. Nevertheless, pipelines remain the safest and most cost-effective means to transport the extraordinary volumes of natural gas needed to meet the nation’s needs.

DIMP rule
The long-awaited Gas Distribution Pipeline Integrity Management (DIMP) rule proposed by the PHMSA was expected to be finalized before year-end 2009. Although that didn’t happen, expectations are that the DIMP rule will soon be approved and each operator of an LDC will have at least two years before the program takes effect.

While it is likely the final rule will be somewhat different than the proposed rule, the basic structure is unlikely to change. This means operators will be required to fully implement an integrity management program that contains the following elements.

  • Knowledge
  • Identify threats
  • Evaluate and prioritize risk
  • Identify and implement measures to address risk
  • Measure performance, monitor results and evaluate effectiveness
  • Periodic evaluation and improvement
  • Report results

Though no firm cost figures have been established, the rule is expected to be costly and time-consuming for LDCs.

Training of distribution employees at all levels continues to grow. More companies are looking to programs like the courses offered by GTI for engineers, technicians, supervisors, managers and other industry professionals who are responsible for gas distribution operations. The course is designed to help build or expand the knowledge base in the construction, operation and maintenance of modern gas distribution systems. Community colleges offer certified training for utility workers.
Developed by GTI, the Certified Operations Technician (COT) Training Program offers a 70-hour training course at several community colleges. It is designed to introduce students to the natural gas industry and provide the skills necessary for an array of field positions.

There is also an online version of the Gas Distribution Operations course that provides an understanding of the processes and procedures needed for reliable delivery of natural gas to consumers. The course comprises 12 modules on gas distribution operations and a final exam to test knowledge.