Natural Gas Pipeline Safety in Ohio
The PUCO is committed to ensuring the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of Ohio's natural gas pipeline system. PUCO investigators inspect each natural gas pipeline system in the state at least once every two years and review records and procedures implemented by utilities. When violations are detected, the PUCO orders corrective action and may assess fines and other penalties to ensure that Ohio’s natural gas pipeline systems continue to deliver natural gas safely and reliably.
What rules and regulations apply to natural gas pipelines?
Natural gas pipeline safety rules are developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The state of Ohio has adopted the federal regulations, and the Public Utilities Commission enforces the regulations through a cooperative agreement with the federal government.
What is the general condition of natural gas pipelines in Ohio?
The condition of Ohio natural gas pipeline network varies by operator. Each operator has the obligation to demonstrate that their piping is in a condition that meets or exceeds the minimum federal safety standards. Most high pressure transmission lines are constructed with protected steel. Lower pressure distribution lines are made from plastic or steel, and older lines may be made from steel, cast iron or copper. Each operator submits an annual report to the PHMSA describing their pipeline network including the type of piping used and number of leaks detected and repaired. This data is available online at http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/pipeline/library/data-stats.
Are operators required to replace pipes after they reach a certain age?
The pipeline safety regulations do not specify an age limit for pipelines, but instead rely on performance standards to ensure safety. Among other criteria, pipelines must be protected from corrosion, have adequate wall thickness and be free of dents. Pipeline engineers determine what segments of pipe may be at risk and require further evaluation. The PUCO evaluates this information as part of its inspections.
What extra protections are in place for pipelines running through populated areas?
The pipeline safety regulations require operators to lower the maximum allowable operating pressure of the pipeline, increase the frequency of leak surveys and odorize gas so leaks can be readily detected.
What actions has the PUCO taken to increase natural gas pipeline safety above and beyond the federal pipeline safety regulations?
The PUCO has taken action to have some older piping materials removed and replaced. The PUCO recently required Ohio’s four major natural gas utilities to gradually update old cast iron and bare steel pipelines with more modern protected steel and plastic lines.
How are new pipelines built? Is there any oversight?
The Ohio Power Siting Board certifies certain types of intrastate natural gas transmission pipelines. Check out the OPSB's fact sheet.