Gas Operations

PAS 55 &
ISO 55001
Recent certifications that recognize PG&E’s best-in-class operational standards for gas asset management

PG&E is in the midst of a large-scale effort to improve and modernize our gas system and strengthen operating practices. Across our service area, we are conducting extensive safety testing, replacing and upgrading vast amounts of infrastructure, and installing new state-of-the-art monitoring and control technologies. The scope of work and the size of our investments are unprecedented within the industry. Ultimately, through these efforts, our goal is to earn our customers’ trust as the safest, most reliable gas operator in the country.

Our Approach

PG&E owns and operates one of the largest natural gas systems in the United States—an integrated transmission, storage and distribution system that consists of approximately 42,500 miles of distribution pipeline, 6,700 miles of backbone and local transmission pipeline, and various gas storage facilities. The system also includes eight natural gas compressor stations, which receive and move natural gas through our pipelines.

Focusing on Gas Safety Excellence

Our approach begins with ensuring that public and employee safety is the primary driver for all of our decisions and actions. This applies to field work, operating and maintaining our assets, as well as office work providing corporate services. Across our vast service area, our employees are working together to apply gas safety excellence to every aspect of our operations.

In May 2014, we achieved two certifications that recognize PG&E’s best-in-class operational standards for asset management. PG&E is one of the first utilities in the world to hold both the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 55001:2014) and Publicly Available Specification (PAS 55-1:2008) certifications. The certifications were awarded by the independent internationally recognized auditor, Lloyd’s Register.

The requirements of the PAS 55-1 and ISO 55001 standards are the foundation of PG&E’s safety management system. They require the highest level of rigor for managing our large number of physical assets, including transmission and distribution pipelines, pressure regulator stations, gas storage facilities and meters. The operational framework provided by these standards is fundamental to our efforts to improve safety, manage risk and drive continuous operational improvement.

2013 Milestones

Gas Transmission System

PG&E’s Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan (PSEP) is the centerpiece of a multi-year commitment to modernize our natural gas system. It is one of the most comprehensive gas transmission modernization programs in the United States, if not the most aggressive. Since the program began in 2011, PG&E has achieved the following results through 2013:

  • Validated safe operating pressure by strength-testing or locating strength-test records for more than 650 miles of gas transmission pipeline.
  • Replaced more than 100 miles of gas transmission pipeline.
  • Automated more than 130 valves, enabling remote-control shutoff of gas in an emergency.
  • Retrofitted more than 190 miles of gas transmission lines to accommodate in-line inspection tools or “smart pigs” that are used to inspect the internal condition of pipelines.

In 2013, we also completed validating the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure for PG&E’s entire gas transmission system, which included digitizing more than 3.8 million paper records going back 50 years.

Gas Distribution System

The safety and reliability of PG&E’s gas distribution system has been enhanced with improvements in leak response and repair, the deployment of new tools and technologies, and an overhaul of our approach to records and information management.

We expanded our use of the world’s most advanced leak detection instrument, which is 1,000 times more sensitive than normal leak detection devices. Other highlights from 2013 include:

  • Improved our average response time to gas odor reports to an average of 21.3 minutes, which represents top decile performance among natural gas utilities.
  • Repaired nearly 108,000 trace leaks at customer gas meters.
  • Reduced the leak backlog of minor, non-hazardous workable leaks to an all-time low of 151 from about 12,200 in 2010.

PG&E is improving the quality of, and access to, our gas distribution records with the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS). This tool is designed to map, reconcile and analyze data and events that take place on PG&E assets. It is being deployed in concert with specialized employee training on how to use the centralized system.

Embedding Public Safety into Our Operating Strategies

PG&E is one of the first utilities to begin explicitly incorporating public safety metrics and targets into its operational goals and plans. We believe that tracking and reporting on these measures is essential to driving progress. Examples of work and accomplishments that this approach drove in 2013 include the following:

  • Launched a best-in-class Corrective Action Program to support our safety culture. The robust program enables gas operations employees and contractors to identify and report problems or issues, or suggest safer, more effective ways to get a job done.
  • Completed a high-tech mapping survey of our entire transmission system. Using highly precise GPS mapping tools, PG&E conducted a mapping survey of our gas transmission system. In addition to locating, marking and mapping the center of the pipeline, PG&E checked the area above the pipeline for any structures or vegetation that could interfere with PG&E’s ability to maintain, inspect and safely operate the pipeline.
  • Adopted new tools and technology that allow our gas crews to work more safely and efficiently. PG&E developed a new customized robotic tool that inspects the internal condition of a pipeline. PG&E also supplied gas construction crews with 400 ruggedized laptops that stand up to the rigors of the field while providing detailed maps of our underground gas system.
  • Dedicated a team to oversee gas emergency planning, support and training. This team provides regionally based emergency response training at no cost to fire departments and local agencies within PG&E’s service area.
  • Increased outreach and education on our “Call Before You Dig” program. PG&E leadership met with more than 1,100 contractors representing about 275 companies and municipalities and launched task forces in the Central Valley, on the Peninsula in the Bay Area, in Alameda County and in Solano County to raise awareness of the importance of calling 811 before beginning any digging project.
  • Increased staffing and training. We hired more than 2,000 new employees into all levels of our Gas Operations organization since January 2011, and expect to hire even more through 2014. More than 130 new training classes have been created for gas employees covering topics such as ground patrol, locating and marking of our underground facilities, and locating and repairing leaks.

PG&E Opens State-of-the-Art Gas Control Center

(Photo by Matt Nauman)

We opened a new 42,000-square-foot Gas Control Center that operates 24/7 with transmission, distribution and dispatch operators working side-by-side. This cutting-edge centralized facility enhances the visibility of the gas system and improves safety by providing inter-system communications and coordinated operational oversight.

Measuring Progress

As one important measure of progress, we have made substantial headway in completing safety recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in its report on the San Bruno accident. PG&E has completed nine of the 12 recommendations, and the NTSB has acknowledged that we are making progress on the three remaining recommendations.

In 2013, we accomplished an unprecedented amount of work on our gas transmission system through our Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan. Additional results from last year compared with 2010 show that we are making progress on our gas distribution system as we continue to focus on becoming the safest, most reliable gas company in the country.

Gas Distribution System Progress
  2010 2013
Gas Odor Response Times1
Average response time (minutes) 33.3 21.3
 
Gas Pipeline Safety
Distribution main pipeline replacement (miles) 23 70
Leak repair performance (number at year-end)2 12,203 151
  • 1 Average response time that a Gas Service Representative or a qualified first responder takes to respond to the site of an immediate response gas emergency order.
  • 2 Number of grade 2 and 2+ leaks open at year-end. Grade 2 and 2+ leaks are minor and non-hazardous.

Looking Ahead

PG&E continues to make progress toward becoming one of the safest and most reliable gas utilities in the country.

In 2014, we provided state regulators with a comprehensive proposal to continue maintaining and modernizing our gas transmission pipelines and extensive storage facilities. The plan, which covers 2015 to 2017, expands on PG&E’s current program to comprehensively test, inspect and upgrade the safety of its gas infrastructure. The detailed filing identifies the risks, sets clear priorities and lays out the work that needs to be done to modernize our system to meet some of the strictest safety standards in the nation. It also encompassed programs formerly associated with the Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan.

PG&E’s proposal includes detailed plans to:

  • Replace vintage pipelines that could be at risk from land movements.
  • Continue testing pipelines to verify safe operating pressures.
  • Continue controlling corrosion to avoid underground leaks.
  • Install more automated and remotely operated safety valves to quickly turn off gas in case of an emergency.
  • Inspect the interior of more pipelines to detect and repair hidden flaws.
  • Strengthen levee and water crossings.
  • Maintain underground gas storage facilities that help meet demand on cold days.
  • Modernize infrastructure control systems, databases and risk analysis programs.

Another emerging focus for PG&E is reducing process and fugitive natural gas emissions from our pipelines. PG&E is one of five members of the Natural Gas Downstream Initiative, which is focusing on reducing methane leaks by encouraging investments in infrastructure, modernizing gas systems and using next generation technologies. On the research side, PG&E is partnering with the American Gas Association, the U.S. EPA, Washington State University and other gas utilities on a study to measure methane emissions from the natural gas distribution system.

Innovative Approach to Gas Leak Detection

We are conducting a pilot project that capitalizes on an innovative gas leak detection tool and mobilizes large numbers of PG&E gas workers concentrating on repairs in a specific area.

PG&E has been testing the so-called SuperCrew approach to leak repairs in Oakland and Sacramento in 2014. The multi-week effort starts with a sweep of an area using our state-of-the-art car-mounted leak-detection technology. It combines all the workers who are part of the leak-management process—from leak surveyors and mapping specialists to estimators and construction crews.

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