PG&E Submits Records to California Public Utilities Commission That Document Pressure Tests or Historical Operating Pressure for Over 90% of Natural Gas Pipelines in High Consequence Areas

Utility Proposes Aggressive Field Tests and Inspections for Key Pipelines

Mar 15, 2011, 20:10 ET from Pacific Gas and Electric Company

SAN FRANCISCO, March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) today submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) records for pressure tests or historical operating pressure on more than 90 percent of its 1,805 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines in high-consequence areas (HCA). The utility also presented an aggressive inspection and field test plan that will raise the bar on standards industry-wide.

The filing included:

  • Records of pressure tests for 91 percent of pipeline segments installed after 1961 when pressure testing was first required by state regulation. Federal regulations did not require pressure testing until 1970.  
  • Records of pressure tests or historical operating pressure for nearly 92 percent of pipeline segments installed before 1970. Federal regulations allow operators to rely on historical operating pressure to establish the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) for pipelines installed prior to 1970.

PG&E's inspection and field test plan includes in-line inspections with "smart pigs" and new camera inspection technologies, as well as pressure testing and pipeline replacement. Of the 1,805 miles of HCA pipeline, in 2011 PG&E plans to hydrostatically pressure test or replace approximately 150 miles with records similar in vintage or other characteristics to the records for the segment involved in the September 9, 2010 accident in San Bruno, where the utility has not yet identified pressure test records. Most of these segments will be hydrostatically pressure tested; shorter segments will be replaced.  

"While we have made good progress on our records validation, we are not satisfied with the results to date and will continue to search for and review our files for additional pressure test records and provide regular updates on our efforts," said Chris Johns, president of Pacific Gas and Electric Company. "We believe the aggressive plan for inspections and testing outlined in our filing is the right step toward enhancing public safety across our service area. We have worked hard to develop a plan that strikes the right balance between accelerating our steps to strengthen pipeline integrity while simultaneously preserving our ability to safely and reliably provide natural gas service to our customers through all seasons. We intend to work closely with state and local agencies, elected officials, emergency responders and customers to expedite our work and minimize any disruptions."

While current regulations permit operators to establish MAOP for pre-1970 pipelines based on historical operating pressures, in today's filing PG&E said it supports steps to "raise the bar" on current standards industry-wide through "a thoughtful review and enhancement of existing safety standards, including phasing out the use of historic operating pressure to establish MAOP of pipelines." PG&E supports a reasonable transition period for any new standards to avoid potentially significant impacts to customers across California.

Today's filing was in response to a CPUC Order to provide "traceable, verifiable and complete" records that establish each pipeline's MAOP. The records submitted today by PG&E were assembled by hundreds of PG&E employees and contractors, at times working in shifts seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The teams reviewed, scanned and analyzed approximately 1.25 million records since receiving the CPUC directive.

Since the San Bruno tragedy, PG&E has moved in a comprehensive way to further enhance safety of its natural gas pipelines:

  • It has substantially reduced the pressure on pipelines of similar size and vintage as the San Bruno pipeline for which it has not completed pressure testing.
  • It enlisted industry-leading experts to advise the company on risk management and pipeline integrity assessment.
  • It has accelerated its Pipeline 2020 Program to modernize its natural gas transmission system.  
  • It has donated $10 million to a new independent, non-profit foundation for research and development of advanced pipeline inspection and diagnostic tools.
  • Its Board of Directors has brought in an independent expert to review the utility's natural gas practices and make recommendations to move PG&E toward industry leading operations.
  • It has launched a new interactive online tool using Google technology that allows customers to find the location of transmission pipelines in their own neighborhoods. This new tool is available at

PG&E plans to conduct many of the inspections and field tests during the summer months when demand for natural gas is lower. The utility believes this will help reduce the need for controlled curtailments of service to residential and business natural gas customers.

PG&E said it intends to report the results of its ongoing MAOP validation analysis to the CPUC by the end of 2011, and to provide periodic updates before then. When this program is completed, the company expects to extend the work to the remaining PG&E-operated natural gas transmission lines.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation, (NYSE: PCG) is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation's cleanest energy to 15 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit

SOURCE Pacific Gas and Electric Company