Texas Railroad Commission approves PE pipe replacement

The Texas Railroad Commission on Tuesday approved two pipeline safety proposals sponsored by agency chairman Michael L. Williams requiring TXU Corp., Dallas, to dig up all segments of polyethylene pipe by December. The recommendation for removing polyethylene pipe�along with a second recommendation to form a pipeline safety task force�were prompted by the commission's recent release of its investigative findings into a January 2000 house explosion in Garland, Tex.


The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) on Tuesday approved two pipeline safety proposals sponsored by agency Chairman Michael L. Williams requiring TXU Corp., Dallas, to dig up all segments of polyethylene pipe by December.

The recommendation for removing polyethylene pipe�along with a second recommendation to form a pipeline safety task force�were prompted by the commission's recent release of its investigative findings into a January 2000 house explosion in Garland, Tex. (OGJ Online, May 15, 2000). That explosion was likely caused by an accumulation of natural gas migrating from a crack near the fusion of two pieces of polyethylene pipe.

The task force would look into the best way of identifying and maintaining data relating to polyethylene pipe throughout Texas. A databank would allow the commission and operators to have pipeline make, location, and manufacturer information readily available should faulty pipe be discovered.

TXU's response
TXU immediately issued a statement saying that it had "received and accepted" the RRC report. The company also said its internal investigation had shown that the explosion was caused by a "highly unusual set of circumstances."

"Our review of the facts determined that two sections of pipe were not fused correctly," said Jim Dixon, director of gas operations for TXU Gas Distribution. An independent contractor had replaced a section of pipe 11 years ago, and TXU says its investigation has revealed that the work did not meet TXU's internal standards.

"We also found that the pipes were fused slightly off-center, and insufficient dirt was placed under the pipe. In addition, drought conditions over the last 3 years could have caused the soil to shift," Dixon said. "All of these factors could have caused extra stress on the pipe."

Dan Farell, executive vice-president of TXU Electric & Gas, said, "We are here today to accept this report and tell you about our concrete steps to keep this combination of events from happening again."

TXU will take the following steps to prevent such accidents:

� Examination of fusion techniques, to be certain TXU is using best-in-class technology.

� An accelerated program to replace all PE 3306 pipe and all fusions involving PE 3306 pipe.

� Continuous monitoring of natural gas using sniffer trucks.

� A resurvey, already complete, of all potential PE 3306 locations.

� The continuation of the company�s practice of adding an odorant to natural gas.

� Increased communication to encourage the public to call TXU Gas immediately if they smell natural gas anytime, anywhere.

� A public awareness campaign called �The Nose Knows,� being mailed to TXU Gas customers this month.

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