Proposed Reporting Requirements: Incident Reporting

[UPDATE, 7/9/09:  PHMSA has advised that the volume measure for reporting incidents is to be 3,000 MCF.]

The recent NPRM to update pipeline reporting requirements will make numerous changes to the federal pipeline safety regulations.  I’ll discuss the changes in regulatory order, grouping similar topics together.

First will be the alignment of 49 CFR 191.1(b)(4) with 49 CFR 192.1(b)(4) for the Scope of Part 191.  This section  establishes the applicability of the Part 191 to gathering systems, reflecting the changes made in 2006 defining regulated/unregulated gathering lines.

Revising the definition of “incident” in 191.3 may help resolve concerns of gas pipeline operators for incident reporting.  OPS in  1984 established that a release of gas with a $50,000 dollar threshold for property damage, including the cost of gas lost, was one criteria for a “reportable incident.”  Previously this amount was set at $5,000 and was increased “to lessen the burden on the industry and to ensure that only the significant incidents are reported.”  OPS found that small, negligible incidents were being reported as the cost of gas had increased significantly since the adoption of Part 191 in 1970.

Operators are faced with the same situation today as the cost of gas increases.  Smaller and smaller releases are reported, clouding the real issue of what incidents are significant as PHMSA and operators work to manage and reduce risk.  PHMSA has received petitions and comments on raising the dollar limit in 191.3.  The proposed rule would separate property damage and cost of gas lost into two criteria:

  • (ii) Estimated property damage of $50,000 or more, including loss to the operator and others, or both;
  • (iii) Estimated gas loss of “3,000 million cubic feet“? or more;

However, in the preamble text PHMSA states that the volume measure would be “3,000 mcf” yet the proposed rule language states something quite different.  A clarification on this is needed.

Assuming the preamble is probably correct, then at an price of $5.76/mcf (US Energy Information Administration, April 2009), then the reporting dollar value would be approximately $17,280, lower than the current regulation.

A fourth criteria added to the definition is:

  • (iv) An explosion or fire not intentionally set by the operator

This will allow for further analysis of significant incidents, as releases that result in fire or explosion are more likely to cause injury or death. It also aligns Part 191 with the reporting requirements with those of Part 195 for hazardous liquid operators.

Incident Report to be revised?

The definition for incident is not the only aspect of this topic that is under review.  PHMSA proposed on September 4, 2008 (Docket PHMSA-2008-0211) to revise the incident reporting forms for gas pipelines and accident reporting forms for liquid pipelines.  There are numerous changes proposed, including many questions about control room operations.

A question arises from these proposed revisions as well.  The instructions for the reports state “All incidents are to be reported directly to the 24-hour National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 within 24 hours of the incident.”

PHMSA/OPS has stated several times in Advisory Bulletins, interpretations and compliance documents that the expected time for telephonic reports is 1-2 hours after discovery.  This has been the understanding of “at the earliest practicable moment” for many years.  Is this reporting time now going to change based on instructions for the report?  And if all reporting will now be electronic, where will these instructions be located?

Coming up I’ll cover who submits reports, what they report and the reporting methods.  If you have a comment for PHMSA there is ample time to submit your thoughts to the docket for the proposed reporting changes.  The docket can be found here.

More to come on this NPRM.

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PHMSA proposes changes to reporting requirements

PHMSA on July 2 released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Updates to Pipeline and Liquefied Natural Gas Reporting Requirements.

The proposed rule makes numerous changes for annual, incident and safety related condition reports for gas, hazardous liquid and LNG operators.  Key features include:

  • Changes to the definition of “incident” in 191.3.   Two additional criteria for incident are added; a volumetric loss of 3,000 MCF and “explosion or fire not intentionally set by the operator.”
  • A requirement to submit all reports to PHMSA electronically, including safety related condition reports and offshore pipeline condition reports.
  • Require LNG operators to submit incident and annual reports.
  • Modifying hazardous liquid telephonic notification requirements.

The proposed rule can be found in the docket at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=PHMSA-2008-0291

We’ll have more discussion on this proposed rule in the coming days.

NTSB issues annual report

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its its 2008 annual report to Congress.  The report summarizes accident investigations and safety recommendations.  It conducted 2 major pipeline investigations and adopted 1 pipeline brief in the last year.

PHMSA has one item on the NTSB’s “Most Wanted” list:

  • Reduce Accidents and Incidents Caused by Human Fatigue – Set working hour limits for pipeline controllers based on fatigue research, circadian rhythms and sleep and rest requirements.

This is listed as “category yellow” meaning acceptable response, progressing slowly.  The current proposed rule on Control Room Management/Human Factors will likely address this item.  The docket for the Control Room Management NPRM can be found at Docket ID PHMSA-2007-27954.

The new format of the report includes maps, new sections and quick view statistics for each office within the NTSB. The full report can be downloaded from http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2009/SPC0901.htm

Reading the regulations

The latest Pipeline Safety Arena column, “Reading the regulations“, has been added to the site, click link 07 2009 on the left.

As an assist to understanding the regulatory purpose each Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Final Rule (FR) contains preambles with detailed explanations by PHMSA of the need for a rule amendment.  In Final Rules PHMSA categorizes comments to the proposed rule and responds to the comments explaining their position and whether the comment has affected the rule language.  Preambles can include examples, as in the Operator Qualification rule to explain covered tasks.  Generally the preamble is longer and more detailed than the rule itself, in the Operator Qualification rule the preamble was approximately 28 pages long to explain two pages of regulations.

Indiana has new damage prevention law!

The new Indiana damage prevention law goes into effect July 1, 2009.  The law is found at IC 8-1 Chapter 26  Damage to Underground Facilities.  Indiana received a $100,000 grant from PHMSA as specified in the PIPES Act of 2006 to assist states in developing effective damage prevention programs.

The new law includes provisions for civil penalties and establishes an Underground Plant Protection Advisory Committee to act in an advisory capacity to the commission in the enforcement of this law.  The pipeline safety division will investigate violations and forward their findings to the advisory committee.

The new law can be found at http://www.indiana811.org/law.php

Remember there are two types of people who should know about damage prevention actions – those who dig and those who don’t.

Energy bill passed in House

The House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454) by a vote of 219-212 on Friday. The Senate must now consider this bill or introduce their own version.

Goals for greenhouse gas emissions are:
SEC. 702. ECONOMY-WIDE REDUCTION GOALS.
`The goals of the Safe Climate Act are to reduce steadily the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions such that–
`(1) in 2012, the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions does not exceed 97 percent of the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions in 2005;
`(2) in 2020, the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions does not exceed 80 percent of the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions in 2005;
`(3) in 2030, the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions does not exceed 58 percent of the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions in 2005; and
`(4) in 2050, the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions does not exceed 17 percent of the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions in 2005.

Full text of the bill can be found on Thomas, search for HR 2454.

Direct final rule confirms new standards

Confirmation of the direct final rule (DFR) for incorporating two new standards was published in the Federal Register today. PHMSA on April 14 published the DFR adding ANSI/API Spec 5L/ISO 3183 “Specification for Line Pipe” (44th edition, 2007) and API 1104 “Welding of Pipelines and Related Facilities,” (20th edition, errata, 2008) to 49 CFR 192.7 and 49 CFR 195.3.

The DFR states “Through use of these consensus standards, pipeline operators will be able to use current technology, materials, and practices. The incorporation of the most recent editions of these standards improves clarity, consistency, and accuracy, reduces unnecessary burdens on the regulated community and will provide, at minimum, an equivalent level of safety.”

The complete DFR can be found at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-15045.pdf