PHMSA Issues Final Rule on Changes to Gas Pipeline Safety Regulations

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) (Washington, DC) recently issued an interim final rule (IFR) that revises U.S. pipeline safety regulations to address safety issues related to downhole facilities.

 These issues include well integrity, wellbore tubing, and casing, according to the agency. 

This revised rule comes in response to Section 12 of the U.S. PIPES Act, which requires PHMSA to enact minimum federal safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities and addresses the concerns of the public highlighted by the Aliso Canyon gas leak incident of 2015, the agency explains.

The Aliso Canyon incident, which occurred near Los Angeles, California, resulted in the estimated release of 4.62 billion ft3 of gas.

“Less than one year after the formation of the Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety, we have developed an interim final rule that puts critical safety standards in place for underground storage facilities across the country and establishes a consistent, minimum federal baseline for states to develop their own regulations,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The Interagency Task Force report can be read here.

The rule incorporates the recommended practices 1170 and 1171 by the American Petroleum Institute (API) (Washington, DC). Those practices outline standards for the design and operation of solution-mined salt caverns used for natural gas storage, and functional integrity of natural gas storage in depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs and aquifer reservoirs.

The incorporation of these practices will provide PHMSA and states with a minimum federal standard for inspection, enforcement, and training through a partnership between federal and state officials, as well as a certification process modeled after the current U.S. pipeline safety program.

The standards will directly apply to ~200 interstate facilities, and serve as the minimum federal standard for ~200 intrastate facilities, PHMSA says.

“This IFR addresses aging infrastructure and is the first step in a multiphase process to enhance the safety of underground natural gas storage,” says PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. “These minimum federal standards will help to prevent incidents like the one at Aliso Canyon from happening in other communities around the country.”

Comments on the rule may be submitted to docket number PHMSA-2016-0016, beginning on the date of publishing in the U.S. Federal Register. The full text of the IFR can be read here.