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PHMSA Issues New Pipeline Safety Rules — Including Mega Rule Part 1

On October 1, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) submitted three major rules to the federal register focused on pipeline safety.

Included was a portion of the Mega Rule that focuses on the safety of gas transmission pipelines.

The other two published rules focus on the safety of hazardous liquid pipelines and enhanced emergency order procedures.

“These are significant revisions to federal pipeline safety laws and will improve the safety of our nation’s energy infrastructure,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a press release.

“The tremendous growth in U.S. energy production will require greater anticipation and preparation for emerging risks to public safety,” said PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott. “These forward-looking rules will help ensure pipeline operators invest in continuous improvements to pipeline safety and integrity management.”

Important Information on Each of the New PHMSA Rules

Each of the new rules includes important information for pipeline operators, midstream, and gas transmission operators.

PHMSA Final Rule: Gas Transmission Pipelines

The Mega Rule will be rolled out in three separate parts, including the Gas Gathering Rule later on — likely in 2020. The first part of the Mega Rule was published to the Federal Register on October 1 focusing on these three areas:

  • MAOP Requirements
  • Assessment Requirements
  • Other Related Amendments

PHMSA Summary: The gas transmission rule requires operators of gas transmission pipelines constructed before 1970 to determine the material strength of their lines by reconfirming the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP). In addition, the rule updates reporting and records retention standards for gas transmission pipelines.

Why Was This Rule Enacted? PHMSA is revising the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations to improve the safety of onshore gas transmission pipelines. This final rule addresses congressional mandates, National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, and responds to public input.

The amendments in the rule address integrity management (IM) requirements and other requirements. Overall, the rule focuses on:

  • The actions an operator must take to reconfirm the MAOP of previously untested natural gas transmission pipelines and pipelines lacking certain material or operational records.
  • The periodic assessment of pipelines in populated areas not designated as “high consequence areas.”
  • The reporting of exceedances of MAOP.
  • The consideration of seismicity as a risk factor in IM.
  • Safety features on in-line inspection launchers and receivers.
  • A 6-month grace period for 7-calendar-year integrity management reassessment intervals.
  • Related recordkeeping provisions.

Timeline: The effective date of the rule is July 1, 2020.

What’s Next: PHMSA will issue a second part of the Mega Rule focusing on repair criteria in HCAs and the creation of new repair criteria for non-HCAs, requirements for inspecting pipelines following extreme events, updates to pipeline corrosion control requirements, codification of a management of change process, clarification of certain other IM requirements, and strengthening IM assessment requirements.

PHMSA will then issue a third part, the Gas Gathering Rule, focusing on requirements related to gas gathering lines.

Read the First Rule on the Safety of Gas Transmission Pipelines.

Listen to the Pipeliners Podcast dissecting the Mega Rule roll-out.

PHMSA Final Rule: Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines

On the Liquid side, PHMSA issued a final rule encouraging pipeline operators to “make better use of all available data to understand pipeline safety threats.” PHMSA also extended leak detection requirements to all non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines.

Additionally, the rule requires operators to inspect affected pipelines following an extreme weather event or natural disaster to address any resulting damage.

Why Was This Rule Enacted? In response to congressional mandates, NTSB and GAO recommendations, lessons learned, and public input, PHMSA is amending the Pipeline Safety Regulations to improve the safety of pipelines transporting hazardous liquids.

Specifically, PHMSA is extending reporting requirements for certain hazardous liquid gravity and rural gathering lines to require:

  • The inspection of pipelines in areas affected by extreme weather and natural disasters.
  • Integrity assessments at least once every 10 years of onshore hazardous liquid pipeline segments located outside of HCAs and that are “piggable” (i.e., can accommodate in-line inspection devices).
  • The use of leak detection systems beyond HCAs to all regulated, non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines.
  • That all pipelines in or affecting HCAs be capable of accommodating in-line inspection tools within 20 years, unless the basic construction of a pipeline cannot be modified to permit that accommodation.

Timeline: The effective date of the rule is July 1, 2020.

Read the Final Rule on the Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines.

PHMSA Final Rule: Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures

The third rule published on October 1 focuses on increased emergency safety measures. This rule increases the authority of PHMSA to issue an emergency order that addresses unsafe safety conditions or hazards that pose an imminent threat to pipeline safety.

PHMSA Summary: The “Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures” final rule adopts the provisions of a 2016 interim final rule (IFR) which established temporary emergency order procedures in accordance with a provision of the PIPES Act. An emergency order may impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions, or other safety measures on owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities.

Why Was This Rule Enacted? These regulations establish procedures for the issuance of emergency orders to address an unsafe condition or practice, or a combination of unsafe conditions or practices, that constitute or cause an imminent hazard to public health and safety or the environment.

The regulations describe the duration and scope of such orders and provide a mechanism by which pipeline owners and operators subject to, and aggrieved by, emergency orders can seek administrative or judicial review.

Timeline: The effective date of the rule is December 2, 2019, several months earlier than the other two rules.

Read the Final Rule on Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures.

What’s Next for Pipeline Operators?

All three of the rules published on October 1 — and the forthcoming final parts of the Gas Gathering Rule — will require operators to take steps toward aligning with the latest requirements for pipeline safety.

Because of our involvement in the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee (GPAC) that contributed to the rulemaking, we have unique understanding and insight into the new rules.

Contact EnerSys today to discuss your pipeline assets, current safety measures, and how we can help close gaps that move your operation into alignment with the new pipeline safety rules issued by PHMSA. Also, subscribe to our eNews (found at the bottom of this page) to receive timely updates directly to your inbox.