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New rules in US to strengthen onshore pipeline safety

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The US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has introduced three new rules that will strengthen the safety of onshore gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines throughout the US.

Additionally, the rules will enhance PHMSA’s authority to issue an emergency order to address unsafe conditions or hazards that pose an immediate threat to pipeline safety.

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

The gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipeline safety rules will modernise federal pipeline safety standards by expanding risk-based integrity management requirements, enhancing procedures to protect infrastructure from extreme weather events, and requiring increased oversight of pipelines beyond current safety requirements.

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

The rules

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. Moreover, the rule updates reporting and records retention standards for gas transmission pipelines.

The hazardous liquid rule encourages operators to make better use of available data to understand pipeline safety threats, as well as extends leak detection requirements to all non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines. It also requires operators to inspect affected pipelines following an extreme weather event or natural disaster to assess any damage.

Finally, the ‘Enhanced Emergency Order Procedures’ rule adopts the provisions of a 2016 interim final rule, which established temporary emergency order procedures in accordance with a provision of the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act, or PIPES Act, of 2016. An emergency order may impose emergency restrictions, prohibitions or other safety measures on owners and operators of gas or hazardous liquid pipeline facilities.