Feds Cite Millennium Pipeline Operator for Failure to Inspect Welds, Monitor CorrosionJun 22nd, 2012 | By Mark | Category: Lead Articles, Regulation
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The troubled Millennium Pipeline, already under regulatory scrutiny as a result of faulty welds and shoddy construction practices, has been cited for additional pipeline safety violations by federal regulators, according to documents obtained by NaturalGasWatch.org.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Material and Safety Administration (PHMSA) cited the the Columbia Gas Transmission Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of NiSource, on May 21, 2012, for failing to inspect critical welds and control corrosion in the Millennium Pipeline, a massive natural gas transmission network that supplies natural gas to customers throughout the northeastern United States.
PHMSA is seeking nearly $200,000 in fines in connection with the alleged violations.
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NiSource currently operates the Millennium Pipeline subject to a federal consent agreement, which was imposed after federal regulators confirmed that the pipeline was riddled with faulty welds and stemming from shoddy construction practices, posing a clear danger to the public safety. The consent agreement lays out a specific program of repairs and upgrades that must be completed by Dec. 31, 2012.
Damon Hill, a PHMSA spokesperson, told NaturalGasWatch.org that the newest violations predate the violations that led to the consent agreement.
“This citation is not related to the consent agreement,” Hill said. “These violations date from inspections that occurred between July 2008 and August 2010.”
Specifically, the latest PHMSA citation alleges that NiSource:
- failed to adequately install a mechanism that would protect buried or submerged pipelines from corrosion,
- constructed a pipeline that was not inspected to ensure that it met the standards for installation in a ditch,
- mishandled materials during construction so that pipeline coatings were damaged as a result, and
- failed to inspect pipeline welds done during repair operations.
From the PHMSA citation:
CGT failed to follow its pipeline construction specification PLS-6.1.2 which states that “Bending procedures and equipment shall not cause damage to external and/or internal coatings. If, in the opinion of the Company representative, coating protection is required, padded bending dies for bending machines shall be furnished at no additional cost.”
The bending and handling technique used by CGT resulted in damaged pipe coating. CGT was installing a pipeline from Ramapo, NY, to Coming, NY, that includes 186 miles of 30 inch, X-70 pipe, coated with fusion bonded epoxy (FBE). In July 2008, NYS DPS representatives inspected the piping and noted that portions of the pipe coating were damaged.
Also from the PHMSA citation:
In July 2008, NYS DPS representatives walked about a mile of pipe on Spread I, at station 10443 +30 that had been lowered into the ditch. The following issues were noted:
There was damaged pipe coating where the pipe appeared to have struck a piece of rock in the side of the ditch when the pipe was installed in the ditch. The NYS DPS inspector notified the operator about the damaged coating, and the pipe was lifted up and a pipe coating repair was made.
The pipe pads installed under the pipe in the ditch, to protect the pipe coating from damage, had moved from under the pipe to the side of the pipe in the ditch.
The Millenium Pipeline, put into service in December 2008, is a 30-inch, high-pressure natural gas pipeline that stretches for more than 180 miles across New York’s Southern Tier, supplying gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale fields to markets in the northeastern United States.