USA Pipeline Agency Proposes Tougher Safeguard Rule

USA Pipeline Agency Proposes Tougher Safeguard Rule
The draft regulation aims to strengthen industry measures to curb methane emissions and prevent hazards.
Image by Smederevac via iStock

The USA pipeline safety agency has filed a draft regulation aimed at strengthening industry measures to curb methane emissions and prevent hazards to people and the environment from the country’s nearly three million miles of gas pipelines.

The proposal by the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) “would boost efficiency, cut harmful pollution and waste, and create an estimated up to $2.3 billion annually in benefits”, the PHMSA said in a news announcement Friday.

A fulfillment of the PIPES Act’s provision for advanced leak detection systems, the new rule would apply not only to the USA’s over 2.7 million miles of gas conveyors but also to its more than 400 underground natural gas storage facilities and 165 liquefied natural gas plants, the PHMSA said.

“The proposed rule will update decades-old federal leak detection and repair standards that rely solely on human senses in favor of new requirements that add an additional layer of safety by deploying commercially available, advanced technologies to find and fix leaks of methane and other flammable, toxic, and corrosive gases”, the PHMSA said.

The planned policy could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the covered pipelines by as much as 55 percent, according to the agency. “In 2030 alone, this rule has the potential to eliminate up to 1 million metric tons of methane emissions—equivalent to 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or the emissions from 5.6 million gas-powered cars”, the PHMSA said.

The proposal requires operators to increase the frequency of leakage surveys and deploy commercially available advanced leak detection tech “to meet a minimum performance standard”.

The new rule also revises down the minimum reporting threshold to detect smaller leaks, seeks to prevent equipment failures, specifies criteria and timeframes for leak repairs and encourages operators to invest in methane-capture equipment.

PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown commented: “This rule will deploy pipeline workers across the country to find and repair leaks that will improve safety for the public—and will ensure America continues to be the global leader in methane mitigation, which is one of the most potent greenhouse gases threatening the economy and our planet today”.

Transport Secretary called the pending regulation “a long-overdue modernization of the way we identify and fix methane leaks”.

The new rule is part of efforts to realize the Biden-Harris administration’s Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, the PHMSA said.

The DOT last month began distributing $196 million in pipeline repair grants for 19 states. It was part of a five-year $1-billion grant to rehabilitate public-owned natural gas pipelines listed in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, popularly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The 2021-26 funding is expected to cut methane emissions by about 212 metric tons annually, according to the DOT.

Before the new proposal, the PHMSA has taken other initiatives to reduce leak incidents in line with the bipartisan PIPES Act of 2020, the pipeline agency said.

“In June of 2021, PHMSA issued guidance to gas and hazardous liquid pipeline operators that operators must update their operations and maintenance plans to minimize emissions, underscoring Congress’ new requirement in section 114 of the PIPES Act of 2020”, the PHMSA said. “In 2022, PHMSA fanned out across the country to inspect operations and maintenance plans to ensure compliance.

“Today’s proposed rule builds on these actions by indicating exactly what pipeline operators must do to comply once the rule is finalized in the coming months”.

Methane accounts for 10 percent of USA greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, launched 2021.

To contact the author, email


Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.

Most Popular Articles