Federal Regulators: Millennium Pipeline in New York May Be Riddled With Faulty WeldsAug 3rd, 2011 | By fjgallagher | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Leaks
Federal regulators suspect that a major natural gas pipeline in New York may be riddled with faulty welds and have ordered the pipeline’s operator to take immediate protective action to prevent a tragedy, according to documents obtained by NaturalGasWatch.org.
The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PMHSA) issued the order on July 6, in connection with a leak that was discovered in the Millenium pipeline, which runs between Steuben County and Rockland County in southern New York, in January.
During a routine surface patrol, Columbia employees noticed bubbles emerging from a creek located in a remote part of Tioga County, near the Schneider Road, and identified a leak that ultimately resulted in the release of more than 1.3 million cubic feet of natural gas into the environment.
The New York Department of Public Service (NY DPS) subsequently inspected the line and determined that the leak resulted from a defective weld that joined two segments of the 30-inch pipeline.
The Millennium Pipeline is a New York-based interstate natural gas pipeline serving the northeast. Millennium is anchored by its customers National Grid, Consolidated Edison of New York, Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation and Columbia Gas Transmission L.L.C. It is jointly owned by affiliates of NiSource Inc., National Grid and
From the federal corrective order:
The weld was characterized as a “double-joint” weld, which refers to a mechanized weld that was made to join two lengths of pipe in a staging yard, prior to shipping to the final installation site. Records indicate that the double joint section containing the anomaly did not pass visual inspection and was set aside at the double joint rack where the welding activities were being performed. It appears that during the course of the construction project for the line, the subject pipe section was inadvertently picked up and subsequently installed in the pipeline.
The NY DPS subsequently reviewed records filed by the pipeline’s owner, Millenium Pipeline Co., LLC in connection with the pipeline’s construction, discovered three additional welds that were potentially inadequate as well and concluded that the integrity of entire pipeline could not be trusted.
From the PHMSA order:
These issues and the inconsistencies in NDT [non-destructive testing] documentation raise concerns as to the integrity of the welds throughout the Milenium Pipeline System. … PHMSA is particularly concerned with the integrity of the welds in the Affected Sections, including, but not limited to, the two double joint welds and the one tie-in weld that were not adequately evaluated. Other welds with similar defects may develop also leaks and potentially lead to a rupture of the pipeline. … After evaluating the foregoing preliminary findings of fact … it appears that the continued operation of the affected pipeline without corrective measures would pose a pipeline safety risk to public safety, property and the environment.”
As a result, the PHMSA ordered the pipeline’s operator to take immediate corrective action. Specifically, the PHMSA directed Columbia to develop a plan to assess the integrity of the pipeline and the welds, along with a detailed and specific timeline for carrying out the plan, and to submit it to the PHMSA for review and approval.
The PHSMA also stated that all remediation work must be completed by Dec. 30, 2011.
In addition, Columbia must submit monthly reports to the PHMSA detailing the progress that has been made in the repair work. The reports are due during the fourth week of each month.
Victor Gaglia, the Vice President for Operations at Columbia, told NaturalGasWatch.org that Columbia is working with the PHMSA and the NY DPS to develop a plan.
“From our perspective, working together with the agencies to give all the stakeholders confidence is important,” Gaglia said. “We’re working collaboratively to meet everybody’s expectations.”