PHMSA issues advisory bulletin on underground gas storage facilities

The US Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued an advisory bulletin for natural gas storage facility operators. It urged them to closely monitor operations to identify the potential for leaks and failures caused by corrosion, chemical or mechanical damage, or other material deficiencies in piping, tubing, casing, valves, and other associated facilities.

The US Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued an advisory bulletin for natural gas storage facility operators. It urged them to closely monitor operations to identify the potential for leaks and failures caused by corrosion, chemical or mechanical damage, or other material deficiencies in piping, tubing, casing, valves, and other associated facilities.

The Feb. 2 bulletin also called on gas storage field operators to review locations and operations of shut-off and isolation systems, and review and update emergency plans as necessary.

“The advisory bulletin directs operators to inspect and take immediate actions to ensure the safety of underground gas storage facilities across the country,” PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez said. The US Department of Transportation agency also is working to propose new regulations to implement additional safety standards for gas storage facilities’ underground portions, she indicated.

PHMSA’s action came the same day as the US Senate approved an amendment by voice vote to a broad energy policy bill it has been debating. The amendment, which California’s two senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, introduced on Jan. 29, would launch a federal examination of the causes and responses to a leak at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility near Los Angeles (OGJ Online, Jan. 29, 2016).

“This amendment directs the administration to bring together experts throughout the federal government to get the answers we need to ensure nothing like the Aliso Canyon leak happens again,” Feinstein said following the Feb. 2 vote. “Senate approval of the amendment is a welcome step.”

Responding to PHMSA’s announcement, an American Petroleum Institute official said that the agency’s safety advisory bulletin is partly guided by best practices the industry already has in place for gas storage facilities.

“We continue to lead when it comes to safety by constantly [raising] our safety standards to ensure that we protect the public and the environment. In fact, we collaborated with PHMSA to create new standards just last year,” said API Midstream Group Director Robin Rorick, referring to API’s Recommended Practices 1171 and 1170.

The two standards address the proper storage of gas underground, he explained. RP 1171 focuses on safe practices for designing, storing and operating natural gas in depleted oil and gas reservoirs. RP 1170 specifically outlines how to safely design, store, and operate natural gas in salt caverns. The two standards discuss proper construction methods, materials, and maintenance practices for ensuring safe operations, Rorick said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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