MMS proposes safety rule for offshore pipeline repairs

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Aug. 29 -- The US Minerals Management Service published Tuesday a proposed rule requiring operators to submit written safety plans and procedures prior to opening flanges or cutting into offshore pipelines for repairs or modifications.

The proposal, published in the Federal Register, applies to holders of federal offshore leases or pipeline rights-of-way. It's part of the MMS' continuing efforts to protect workers and prevent pollution, officials said.

"After a pipeline has been in service for a significant time, we need to be able to pay specific attention to overall maintenance of this aging infrastructure. This rule will allow us to have better oversight of work procedures and practices for modification or repair work on offshore pipelines, and allow us to keep the energy flowing to the public from our offshore reserves," said Tom Kitsos, MMS acting director.

Under the proposed rule, operators must meet three requirements:

-- Consider the operating history of the pipeline segment to be modified or repaired, including past modifications, repairs and operating conditions.

-- "Adequately purge" the targeted pipeline segment of pressure differentials, hydrogen sulfide, and combustibles immediately before making a major modification or repair to the line.

-- Provide procedures and safeguards to ensure that the segment remains isolated during the entire modification or repair, to prevent such dangers to workers.

The public comment period on the proposed rule closes Oct. 29, MMS officials said.

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