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Kanawha County Officials Urge Caution In Restarting Sissonville Gas Pipeline
Reported by: Associated Press
Videographer: Bob Aaron
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Dec. 28, 2012 10:06 AM EST
Updated: Dec. 28, 2012 5:20 PM EST
Sissonville , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Local officials are asking regulators to go slow when it comes to restarting the natural gas pipeline that exploded in West Virginia earlier this month.
Last week the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said the company could plan to restart the 26.2-mile segment of pipe after taking a number of steps including repairs and inspections.
The state Public Service Commission also gave the gas company a long list of demands that must be met before the pipe is restarted.
But Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper and Deputy Emergency Services Director C.W. Sigman say safety has to be the No. 1 priority.
Both tell media outlets they'd like to see the entire pipeline dug up and inspected, instead of just a portion of it.
"There is a concern with a pipeline this old and with its history. We would prefer more engineering studies and more testing before natural gas is introduced in to the pipeline," Sigman said.
Carper said, "The safety of the public, travelers, first responders and Columbia Gas employees must be our highest priority."
The Kanawha County Commission sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The letter outlined a number of concerns regarding the corrective order for the pipeline that exploded.
Below is the letter sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation:
December 28, 2012
Jeffrey D. Wiese
Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Corrective Action Order for Columbia Gas CPF No. 1-2012-1025H
Dear Mr. Wiese:
The Corrective Action Order referenced above, for the Columbia Gas Transmission SM-80, was provided to the Kanawha County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (KCDHSEM) by the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC). While not experts in pipeline safety, we note a number of concerns:
Order Phase I, f.1., permitting static pressure to reach 80% of the validated Lanham compressor station pressure or 741 PSI.
* How is the 80% level determined? Is this an arbitrary percentage, an industry standard or scientifically based maximum?
* How does one verify that other sections of this pipeline do not have the same corrosion characteristics as that which failed and burned? The order mentions that "general wall thinning on the underside of the Affected Pipeline at the Failure location, OPS has preliminarily concluded that general wall thinning is major factor in the cause of the Failure." By the information in the order, this pipeline was installed circa 1951 to 1955, including some upgrades as late as 1992; pragmatically, a pipe with such age may have thinning issues in other areas.
* The order includes a requirement that after startup of the pipeline, one is to perform an In-Line Inspection within 30 days of Phase I or pressurization. Our understanding is that this requires the use of "Smart Pig" technology. We also understand that this procedure requires pressure in the pipes to push the "Pig" along. Inasmuch as an In-Line Inspection has never been done in the history of what may be a 61 year old pipe raises additional concern. Introducing pressure into a pipeline which has experienced catastrophic failure, and which has never had an In-Line Inspection, is a concern.
* In Phase II. B. (post pressurization), Columbia Gas Transmission is to review pipe data to ascertain actual pipe specifications. While records may assist is determining location of the oldest sections of pipe and what maintenance has or has not been done, we believe that physically looking at that pipe and verifying the data is prudent and necessary.
* Phase I requires that all critical valves be partially operated before pressurization. We believe that any test or inspection of the valves should be comprehensive in nature, i.e. the trial should range from "full-open" to "full-closed" in scope; testing partially only verifies that they operate partially.
* Phase I also requires a leak survey, with hydrogen flame ionization devices, be done either by an on-ground foot patrol or an aerial patrol for 300 ft. upstream and downstream of the incident location. Due to the age of the pipeline and that fact that the gas is not odorized, we believe that all of the piping of SM-80 should be surveyed.
We do agree with the finding that without corrective action, operation of the pipeline would be hazardous. Restarting a pipeline having a history of rupture and fire without taking every precaution, such as engineering studies, physical examination of the pipe, and non-hazardous testing and inspection is overly risk laden. The safety of the public, travelers, first responders and Columbia Gas employees must be our highest priority.
W. Kent Carper
President, Kanawha County Commission
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