PHMSA issues interim final rule to address gas storage issues

The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued an interim final rule (IFR) that aims to address issues related to underground natural gas storage facilities downhole facilities, including well integrity, wellbore tubing, and casing.

The Dec. 14 IFR is the first step in responding to issues raised by a leak at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility near Los Angeles at the end of 2015 that took months to stop (OGJ Online, Apr. 4, 2016), PHMSA said.

Interstate Natural Gas Association of America Pres. Donald F. Santa expressed concern that the IFR’s 12-month implementation period is unrealistic.

“We are concerned that a rushed implementation of the entirety of the recommended practices would impose a substantial burden on operators and could undermine the effectiveness of these risk-based integrity management programs,” he said. “In contrast, the implementation period for the gas transmission pipeline integrity management program requirements was 10 years.”

PHMSA said the IFR incorporates the American Petroleum Institute's Recommended Practices (RP) 1170 and 1171 by reference into the pipeline safety regulations (49 C.F.R. Part 192). The RPs outline standards for the design and operation of solution-mined salt caverns used for gas storage, and functional integrity of gas storage in depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs and aquifer reservoirs.

The incorporation of these RPs will provide PHMSA and the states with a minimum federal standard for inspection, enforcement, and training through a federal and state partnership and certification process modeled after the current pipeline safety program, the US Department of Transportation agency said.

The standards will directly apply to about 200 interstate facilities, and serve as the minimum federal standard for about 200 intrastate facilities, it said.

“This IFR addresses aging infrastructure and is the first step in a multiphase process to enhance the safety of underground natural gas storage,” said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. “These minimum federal standards will help to prevent incidents like the one at Aliso Canyon from happening in other communities around the country.”

The IFR will be effective 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, which is expected in the next few days, PHMSA said. Comments will be accepted for 60 days following its appearance there.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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