[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.