§192.557. Can PE pipe be uprated?

A question was recently asked about uprating PE pipe.  Can it be uprated?  What sort of pressure test might be applicable?

The quick answers to these questions are: yes, and see 192.619(a)(2).

Subpart K Uprating, is a difficult subpart to understand.  Rather than take a chance of getting it wrong, here is an interpretation from 2009 which explains these answers.

Interpretation 192.557  18
July 17, 2009

Mr. Paul Cabot
GPTC Secretary
Gas Piping Technology Committee (GPTC)
American Gas Association
400 North Capitol Street, NW
Suite 450
Washington, DC  20001

Dear Mr. Cabot:

In a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) dated October 19, 2006, you requested an interpretation of the applicability of the Federal pipeline safety regulations in 49 CFR Part 192 to plastic natural gas pipelines.  Specifically, you requested an interpretation of 49 CFR §§ 192.513(c), 192.557(c), and 192.619(a)(2)(i) as they relate to uprating polyethylene (PE) pipelines.  You used the example of a 4-inch PE pipeline with a design pressure rating of 100 psig, tested to 75 psig at the time of construction, with a maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) of 50 psig.  You suggested an approach to uprating such a line to 60 psig in increments without testing the pressure and asked whether your approach would be permissible under current regulations.

You correctly noted that § 192.557(c) permits uprating a pipeline by increasing line pressure in increments.  You referenced a November 14, 1973, Office of Pipeline Safety interpretation for steel pipelines that permitted incremental uprating of steel pipelines without a pretest.  You stated your belief that if this interpretation were applied to plastic pipelines, uprating incrementally in accordance with § 192.557(c) would be acceptable without testing the pressure.  You expressed your view that it would be acceptable to incrementally increase the pressure to the new MAOP without testing it to 1.5 times the new MAOP.

As the regulatory agency with primary responsibility for pipeline safety in the U.S., PHMSA is obligated to ensure the pipeline safety requirements provide an adequate margin of safety.  In carrying out our responsibilities, we appreciate receiving input and views from all stakeholders and particularly appreciate the views of the GPTC.  In this case, however, we can not agree that the above referenced interpretation can be applied to plastic pipelines.  Under § 192.619 the MAOP requirements for steel and plastic pipelines are not the same.  For plastic pipelines § 192.619(a)(2)(i) requires the following:

§ 192.619 – (a) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, no person may operate a segment of steel or plastic pipeline at a pressure that exceeds the lowest of the following:

(1) …
(2) The pressure obtained by dividing the pressure to which the segment was tested after construction as follows:
(i) For plastic pipe in all locations, the test pressure is divided by a factor of 1.5.

We agree that § 192.557 allows the uprating of PE pipelines.  However, § 192.619 (a)(2)(i) requires the operator to increase the uprating test pressure to 1.5 times the new MAOP in order to meet the lowest limiting factor for the new MAOP.  Therefore, in order for the operator to increase the MAOP from 50 psig to 60 psig, a pressure test to 1.5 times the new MAOP (90 psig) must be conducted to comply with the § 192.619 (a)(2)(i) requirements. (see note)  In addition, other applicable requirements must be met including:

·    Following procedures prior to uprating (§ 192.557(b)(1));

·    Checking rating of applicable appurtenances for the test pressure; and

·    Meeting and maintaining operating conditions to ensure pressure increments as required by the uprating (§ 192.553(a)).

I hope that this information is helpful to you.  If I can be of further assistance, please contact me at (202) 366-4046.

Sincerely,

John A. Gale
Director, Office of Regulations

Note that § 192.553 was amended on September 15, 2003, [68 FR 53895] to make direct reference to § 192.619 and clarify the uprating requirements.  This amendment addressed the concern that the previous language referring to “this part” was potentially being applied differently among the States.  This was a key focus of the work done under the State Industry Regulatory Review Committee (SIRRC) II in recognizing the principal differences between strength test vs. leak test.  The SIRRC II formulated the proposed language to state these would be subjected to incremental pressure increases to the desired new MAOP with an additional leak survey to be performed no sooner than 10 days and no later than 30 days after the date the last pressure increase is achieved.

All this and more in WinDOT, The Pipeline Safety Encyclopedia.  Would you like your manuals on-line, viewable with desktop, laptop, tablets and smartphones?  See ViaData’s Manuals On-Line Application.

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