In response to major and sometimes deadly pipeline incidents in recent years, the new Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011, passed in January 2012, places more stringent regulations on more pipelines across the country. The new regulations require the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to re-evaluate and, where appropriate, update regulations pertaining to the safe transportation of natural gas, petroleum and other hazardous materials by pipeline.
PHMSA administers national regulations that include safety measures in design, construction, testing, operation, maintenance and emergency response of pipeline facilities. The recent "pipeline reauthorization act" changes some current regulations as well as mandates evaluation and potential future revision of other regulations.
Additional Pipelines Regulated
Prior to the new act, mostly petroleum and hazardous liquids and natural gas pipelines were required to adhere to the DOT's regulations. Now, even nonpetroleum fuels, such as biofuels, are subject to DOT regulation as hazardous liquids if they are flammable, toxic, corrosive or would be harmful to the environment if released in significant quantities. The act also includes a clarification that a written plan for inspection and maintenance applies to all pipelines and that minimum safety standards apply to any or all owners or operators. The DOT is also now authorized to study the currently unregulated transportation of liquids from chemical production facilities across land areas not owned by the producer.
Integrity Management Extended
The act requires that the DOT evaluate expanding gas and hazardous liquids integrity management requirements beyond determined high consequence areas (HCAs). The DOT may determine that all current integrity management requirements should extend beyond HCAs or that only a portion should be extended. The DOT has until 2014 to submit a report to Congress on the matter and is authorized to update regulations as is practical per their findings.
In addition, the DOT will evaluate the current seven-year reassessment interval and potentially replace it with an interval determined by risk-based methodologies.
More Operational Data Needed
The DOT will require verification of records for all gas transmission pipelines for accuracy in order to confirm their established maximum allowable operating pressures (MAOP) in certain class locations and HCAs. The specifics of these requirements should be released by early July with the timeframe by which operators will be required to document segments with missing data which is expected to be no later than July 2013. The DOT will also provide regulations for confirmatory tests of material strength including for those segments where MAOP records are inadequate.
Operators will be required to establish MAOP where they have insufficient historical records and potentially few remedy options beyond hydrostatic testing or replacement. In addition, the DOT must update programs within one year in order for HCAs to be shown on the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), a comprehensive, interactive map tool highlighting pipelines across the country.
New System Requirements
In response to recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the DOT must submit a report to Congress evaluating the potential need for excess flow valves. If the DOT determines them to be feasible, it will add requirements within two years for their use on new or entirely replaced distribution branch services, multi-family facilities and small commercial facilities located in high-density population areas and environmentally sensitive areas.
Congress will also review a DOT report on technical limitations of leak detection systems for hazardous liquid pipeline facilities and transportation-related flow lines and whether the DOT determines such systems to be practical. If they are, additional new regulations for leak detection systems will be issued after a review period.
As part of an effort to standardize one-call systems, exemptions from one-call notification will be prohibited beginning in 2014 as a condition of a state's PHMSA grants. In addition, a study on the impact of excavation damage on pipeline safety must be completed by the DOT and submitted to Congress.
There are additional areas covered within the 32 sections of the pipeline reauthorization act that will impact current pipeline regulations than those covered by this summary. The next two years will provide increased activity with updated and new pipeline regulations as the pipeline reauthorization act is implemented by the DOT.
For more information, contact Dana Book, 816-823-7535.