“In the wake of the San Bruno tragedy, we are inspecting literally every square inch of every pipeline,” said PG&E government liaison Tom Guarino at the Aug. 14 Oakley City Council meeting. Crews were scheduled to begin work this week with an estimated completion date for the first week of November.
Nearly two years ago, a natural gas line in a San Bruno neighborhood exploded, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. In an attempt to prevent a similar accident, PG&E will assess Oakley’s pipeline and reroute the line in order to replace aging pipe more than 50 years old. A new line will be installed parallel to Neroly Road, and the existing line that runs perpendicular to Main Street between Neroly and Live Oak Avenue will be filled, sealed and taken out of commission.
“Ensuring the safety of these pipelines is a major priority to the company,” said Guarino as he presented an overview of the project to the council. According to Guarino, residents shouldn’t notice a change in services during the transition. They might smell gas as the air is removed from the old gas line, but other than some traffic restrictions in effect during the assessment and repair, it will be service as usual.
During the installation process, crews will inspect the new pipeline’s welds visually and with X-ray technology. Before the new line goes live, the pipeline will be subjected to a high-pressure water test, known as hydrostatic pressure testing, to check for leaks in the system. The testing involves pressurizing a section of pipe with water to a much higher level than the pipe will ever operate with natural gas. The test will validate the safe operating pressure of the pipeline.
“The second we find a leak, we stop everything and repair that pipeline immediately,” Guarino assured residents in attendance at the council meeting. PG&E also hosted an open house informational meeting at City Hall in conjunction with the formal presentation to the council. Informational letters alerting residents who live near the new and old pipeline were mailed out earlier this month, and informational door hangers will be placed at homes and businesses in the work area. PG&E will also send out recorded messages via telephone to keep residents in the loop.
For anyone seeking more information regarding the project, Guarino urged residents to call PG&E at 888-743-7431, a line dedicating to answering questions regarding the natural gas pipeline inspections and replacement. The number is in service Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
According to the PG&E website, more than 1.5 million miles of transmission pipelines and distribution systems exist in the United States. PG&E’s system delivers gas to more than 4 million people.
In April of 2011, PG&E sent letters and brochures with pertinent information about natural gas safety to anyone who has a home or business located within about 2,000 feet of a gas transmission pipeline owned by PG&E. To view a map of all the pipelines in the state, visit http://bit.ly/Qvse2G.
Pipeline testing will continue throughout the state through 2014. Once the assessments and replacements are completed, PG&E will continue to regularly monitor all of its pipeline networks throughout the state. Guarino said the equipment used in these routine monitoring exercises is so sensitive that when a PG&E crew recently picked up unusual levels of carbon monoxide during an aerial inspection in Brentwood, the crew found out that the cause of the gas was that of a decaying cow carcass.
For general information about PG&E’s natural gas services and programs, visit www.pge.com/gas.