April 2020, Vol. 247, No. 4


PHMSA Proposes Mandatory Shutoff Valve Installation for Some Pipelines

Natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines will have to install automatic shutoff valves (ASVs), remote control valves (RCVs) or equivalent technology on all newly constructed or entirely replaced pipelines that have nominal diameters of 6 inches (152.4 mm) or greater if the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) finalizes a proposal it issued in February. 

PHMSA is acting to fulfill a congressional directive issued in 2011 in the wake of serious pipeline leaks in Michigan and California. In those instances, operators were quickly aware of the leaks but were slow to respond and address the ruptures. 

The dictate would be limited to 6-inch-or-greater-diameter pipelines in high-consequence areas (HCA), areas that could affect HCAs (for hazardous liquid pipelines) and Class 3 and 4 locations (for natural gas transmission pipelines), where a release could have the most significant adverse consequences on public safety or the environment. “Entirely replaced” would be defined as when two or more contiguous miles are being replaced with new pipe. 

Additionally, for gas transmission pipelines, when a pipeline’s class location changes and results in pipe replacement to meet the maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) requirements of the new class location, an operator would be required to install or otherwise modify valves as necessary to comply with valve spacing requirements and the proposed rupture identification and mitigation requirements. 

There would be an overall exemption allowing manual valves at those locations provided that operators appropriately station personnel to ensure that a manual valve can be closed within the same 40-minute timeframe. 

“INGAA is pleased to see that PHMSA has published its automated valve and rupture detection proposed rule,” said C.J. Osman, vice president, Operations, Safety & Integrity, INGAA. “Automated valve technology can be a valuable incident response tool, when applied appropriately. We are reviewing PHMSA’s proposal and look forward to providing input.”

David Murk, pipeline manager for the American Petroleum Institute, said current regulations already require pipelines to consider installing RCVs. 

We recognize the value that RCV or ASV can have in enhancing safety in newly constructed or fully replaced pipelines and support the intent of the proposed rule,” he added. “We will continue to work closely with our members and PHMSA to find a solution that will serve the interests of the public and the environment.”

The new rupture standards also aim to prevent the unfortunate ramifications of slow leak responses such as those in Marshall, Mich., and San Bruno, Calif., the latter resulting in eight deaths, 51 injuries requiring hospitalization, the destruction of 38 homes, damage to 70 other homes.

The new rule would enforce a set a requirements to declare a “rupture” as soon as practicable but no longer than 10 minutes after initial notification or indication, proscribe public safety notification standards and establish a requirement to respond to a rupture as soon as practicable by closing rupture-mitigation valves, with complete valve shut-off and segment isolation within 40 minutes after rupture identification.

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