Feds: Spectra Energy Delayed Critical Natural Gas Pipeline Repairs, Maintenance for Years in Pennsylvania

Jan 24th, 2013 | By Mark | Category: Lead Articles, Regulation

NatGas Consulting

Spectra Energy, the company that is currently constructing a large, high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline between New Jersey and lower Manhattan, allegedly put off critical repairs and maintenance to its natural gas transmission system in Pennsylvania for more than four years, from July 2008 to August 2012, even though the company’s own testing indicated a potential problem, according to documents obtained by NaturalGasWatch.org.

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A corroded natural gas pipeline. Without adequate protection against corrosion, natural gas pipelines made of metal can develop leaks, increasing the risk of explosions and the threat to public safety. Photo courtesy of PHMSA.

In a Jan. 8 letter to a senior official at the Texas Eastern Transmission Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Spectra Energy and a partner in the New Jersey/New York City pipeline project, federal regulators at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration cited the company for failing to adequately protect its metal pipelines from corrosion and for failing to properly test shut-off valves meant to staunch the flow of natural gas in the event of an emergency.

Cathodic protection is a method of protecting natural gas pipelines made of metal from corrosion by running a low-level electric current through pipeline. Without adequate cathodic protection, the integrity of pipelines can be significantly compromised, increasing the risk of natural gas leaks and explosions.

From the PHMSA documents:

TETCO failed to take prompt remedial action to correct a deficiency indicated by their cathodic protection (CP) monitoring … The PHMSA inspector reviewed annual pipe-to-soil test readings from 2008 to 2011. The records showed that TETCO had not initiated any remedial action for approximately 3 years after the initial low reading was discovered on July 14, 2008, despite its procedures which require remedial action to be initiated prior to the next scheduled survey which was on July 27, 2009. During this 3 year period, an acceptable CP reacting was recorded in 2010, followed by a low CP reading in 2011. However, there is no record of remedial action contributing to an acceptable CP reading in 2010. The only remedial action record available was dated August 8, 2012.

In addition, PHMSA cited Spectra for failing to adequately test transmission line valves that would allow the flow of natural gas to be shut off in the event of an emergency, and for failing to follow its own procedures and policies in connection with inspecting pipelines that had been covered with noise-reducing insulation in the Armagh and Lilly compressor stations.

As a result, PHMSA is seeking $95,500 in civil penalties from Spectra.

Spectra has not responded to the federal citation yet and a spokesperson from the company was not available for comment.

You can read the complete PHMSA citation here: PHMSA Texas Eastern Transmission Notice of Probable Violation 01082013

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4 Comments to “Feds: Spectra Energy Delayed Critical Natural Gas Pipeline Repairs, Maintenance for Years in Pennsylvania”

  1. linda says:

    Not surprised. PA does not seem to have a clue with regard to protecting the citizens and children of this state, with regard to safety issues and pipelines. Its all about the money. The NiSource/Columbia gas company, has a horrible track record with regard to the issue mentioned above, as this websitas reported last year. YET our Downingtown School District, Chester County PA, IS BUILDING a school (6th grade center) 50 feet from a NiSource pipeline as we speak. There is currently another relatively new DASD Elementary school on the OTHER side of the pipeline, (Shamona Creek), about 100 feet away. The pipeline is marked, but was not when this building, (6th grade center), went to a taxpayer vote. Nobody knew about the pipeline, but the school district did! I doubt many parents and taxpayers would have voted yes, had we all been properly informed about this potential nightmare. There is no PA school building code law that prohibits schools building next to pipelines. The only need to be at least 50 feet away, as this one is. Unbelievable.

  2. Pipeline cathodic protection is second only to the use of protective coatings as a means of corrosion control.

  3. [...] regulators cited Spectra Energy, the same company that is currently constructing a large, high-pressure natural gas pipeline through New Jersey into lower Manhattan, for failing adequately protect natural gas pipelines in [...]

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