PG&E Continued to Operate Natural Gas Pipeline After Court Order to Shut It DownOct 8th, 2013 | By fjgallagher | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Explosions
PG&E continued to operate a potentially explosive natural gas pipeline in norther California for nearly a week after a Superior court judge ordered the transmission line to be shut down, according to documents obtained by NaturalGasWatch.org.
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San Mateo County Superior Court Judge George Miram ordered the 20-inch transmission line shut down after city official in San Carlos, California, acquired internal emails from a PG&E engineer questioning the pipeline’s integrity.
A PG&E spokesperson, though, said the company would continue to operate the pipeline until it could complete its own analysis of a shutdown’s effect.
According to recent media reports, PG&E continued to operate the pipeline as late as Oct. 7, 2013.
From an Oct. 5, 2013, press release issued by the City of San Carlos:
Thursday, the City learned that some engineers within PG&E had stated in emails that line 147 may have been structurally compromised by pressure testing that the company permitted in 2011. The City requested PG&E voluntarily shut down line 147, until such time as a neutral third party could examine the data and evidence establishing the current physical condition of the pipe, and its safety. PG&E declined to shut down line 147, and the City was forced to seek an injunction to shut down the line. The injunction was obtained just before 5:00pm Friday.
As of the conclusion of today’s 12:00pm conference call with PG&E, company representatives confirmed that they continue to operate line 147 despite the existence of the injunction, but are analyzing the alleged impacts of shutting down the line. The analysis, according to PG&E, will be concluded by Monday morning, October 7, 2013. Mayor Bob Grassilli responded, stating this timeline is not at all satisfactory.
The San Carlos officials may have reason to be concerned. A report on the status of PG&E natural gas pipeline testing program submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission on Dec. 30, 2011, disclosed the discovery of two failures in the company’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure and the delay of other important tests.
From the December 2011 CPUC filing:
On October 24, 2011, while conducting hydrostatic test T-117, PG&E experienced a rupture of the long seam on Line 300B near Bakersfield in a farm field. The pipe was installed in 1950 and was 34-inch diameter with 0.344 wall thickness, X-52, double submerged arc welded (DSAW) pipe. The rupture occurred during the spike test at 998 psig, which was 94.9% of the pipe’s specified minimum yield strength (SMYS). The MAOP of the pipe is 757 psig. The ruptured pipe segment was replaced with 84 feet of new pipe.
On November 6, 2011, while conducting hydrostatic test T-31, PG&E experienced a rupture of the pipeline on Line 132 in Woodside. The pipe was installed in 1947 and was 24- inch diameter with 0.281 wall thickness, seamless pipe with specified minimum yield strength of 45,000 psi. The rupture occurred during the spike test at 550 psig, which was 52.2% of the pipe’s SMYS. The MAOP of the pipe is 400 psig. The ruptured pipe segment was replaced with 59 feet of new pipe.
PG&E has delayed eight tests5 representing 5.7 Priority 1 miles into 2012 until after the winter cold season or permits are obtained. Seven of these tests were delayed because they could not be completed before November 15 and would have risked PG&E’s ability to serve core customers.
You can download and read the complete CPUC filing here: Report_on_Status_of_Hydrotest_Program_12-31-2011
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Similarly, a PG&E spokesperson quoted recently in the San Francisco Chronicle, said that the San Carlos line could not be taken out of service without, “major disruptions to customers,” and noted that the company would continue to operate the natural gas pipelien until its own internal analysis of the shutdown was completed.
San Carlos Mayor Bob Grassilli said that decision was “unsatisfactory.”
“How can a company which claims safety is their top priority continue to ignore a court order issued to protect the public?” Grassilli said. “It’s 80 degrees outside, PG&E customers in the Bay Area aren’t going to be without gas if line 147 were shut down. They shut down the line for several months in 2011 without impacting customers.”
In September 2010, a natural gas pipeline owned and operated by PG&E exploded in San Bruno, CA, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. Subsequent investigations into the blast discovered that a pipeline weld similar to the weld called into question in San Carlos ruptured, triggering the lethal explosion.
You can download and read the report from the National Transportation Safety Board on the San Bruno explosion here: NTSB San Bruno natural gas explosion report