In San Bruno, Aging Pipelines Precluded Safety Test
The Los Angeles Times has a great story this morning on the natural gas pipeline that exploded in San Bruno last week, killing at least four people and destroying dozens of homes. It turns out the pipeline, which was installed in 1956, was too old to accommodate an inspection tool that experts say is the best option for ensuring the safety of pipelines.
This story underscores yet another problem with the country’s massive system of pipelines: it’s getting old. So old that many pipelines can’t accommodate the best technology for conducting inspections, even though the oldest pipelines need adequate inspections the most.
According to the story:
[A]n in-line device known as a pig, which can run inside a large gas transmission line, could not be used in the 51.5-mile section from Milpitas to San Francisco because of bends and changes in the pipe’s diameter, PG&E President Chris Johns told reporters at a news conference.
Though Johns stressed to reporters that PG&E, the owner of the pipeline, used other “proven methods” to inspect the pipeline, a former pipeline regulator tells the Times that the so-called “pig” is the best way to inspect pipelines.
The Times continues:
By law, new pipelines must accommodate the devices, but many older lines cannot and owners are not required to replace them because it would be enormously expensive, De Leon said. The ruptured pipeline was installed in 1956.