About the Business

Gas Operations

PAS 55

A rigorous certification PG&E is pursuing that represents the highest standards for operating asset intensive industries, including natural gas transmission, storage and distribution

In 2010, an explosion on a PG&E gas pipeline in San Bruno, California, claimed eight lives and destroyed dozens of homes. Investigations into the accident by PG&E and independent state and federal investigators led to numerous recommendations for safety and operational improvements across the business. The accident also led California to adopt new pipeline safety standards that are now the most rigorous in the United States.

In response, PG&E embraced these changes, restructured our gas business and committed to sweeping improvements in our operations and safety culture.

The initiatives now underway to modernize our system and strengthen our operating practices form the core of our operating plans in the gas business. The scope of work and the size of the investments that we have committed to are unprecedented within the industry. Among other elements, they include conducting extensive safety testing, replacing and upgrading vast amounts of basic infrastructure, and installing new state-of-the-art monitoring and control technologies.

Although this work will require multiple years to complete, we are making steady progress on many fronts. Ultimately, through these efforts, our goal is to earn our customers’ trust as the safest, most reliable gas operator in the country.

Focusing on Gas Safety Excellence

PG&E owns and operates one of the largest natural gas systems in the United States—an integrated transportation, storage and distribution system that consists of approximately 42,000 miles of distribution pipelines, 6,750 miles of backbone and local transmission pipelines, and various storage facilities. The system also includes eight natural gas compressor stations, which receive and move natural gas through our pipelines.

Our management philosophy today begins with ensuring that public and employee safety are the primary criteria that drive all of our decisions and actions. Whether it is front-line work to operate and maintain our assets or supporting work in the corporate services function, safety is the first priority. Across our vast service area, our employees are working together to apply this approach to rethinking every aspect of our operations.

As one important measure of our progress, we have made substantial headway in completing safety recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as a result of its investigation into the San Bruno accident. PG&E has completed seven of the 12 recommendations. PG&E expects to complete action on two additional integrity management recommendations by the end of 2013. PG&E is working aggressively to address the remaining three recommendations relating to supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), valve automation and hydrostatic testing, all of which are classified as “open – acceptable” by the NTSB.

In another example of this approach in action, we are working to achieve compliance with an internationally recognized standard of excellence for managing physical assets, known as Publicly Available Specification (PAS 55). PAS 55 is a rigorous certification that represents the highest standards for operating asset intensive industries, including natural gas transmission, storage and distribution.

PG&E’s Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan

PG&E’s Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan (PSEP) is the centerpiece of our multi-year commitment to modernize our system. It is currently one of the most comprehensive gas transmission modernization programs in the United States, if not the most aggressive. Through this plan, PG&E achieved the following results in 2012:

  • Validated safe operating pressure by strength-testing or locating strength-test records for 204 miles of gas transmission pipeline.
  • Replaced 40 miles of gas transmission pipeline.
  • Added or upgraded 46 automated or remote-control valves to shut off gas in an emergency.
  • Retrofitted 78 miles of gas transmission lines to accommodate in-line inspection tools or “smart pigs” that are used to inspect a pipeline from the inside out.

In 2013, we also completed validating the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure for our entire gas transmission system, which included digitizing more than 3.7 million paper records going back 50 years.

By the end of 2013, PG&E plans to have strength-tested or replaced nearly 728 miles of gas transmission pipeline and added 150 remotely controlled or automated valves. Additionally, we plan to have upgraded nearly 200 miles of pipeline to be able to accommodate in-line inspection tools and we expect to complete in-line inspections for 78 miles of pipeline.

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 operations. We believe that tracking and reporting on these measures is essential to driving progress. Examples of work and accomplishments that this approach drove in 2012 include the following:

  • Improved our leak-repair performance. We fixed 100 percent of all non-hazardous (“Grade 2”) leaks found in 2011. (Grade 2 leaks are non-hazardous leaks that require repair within 15 months. Grade 1 leaks are hazardous leaks and are repaired immediately.)
  • Improved our response to customer gas odor calls. In December 2012, employees responded to calls in less than 60 minutes 99 percent of the time and in less than 30 minutes 85 percent of the time. PG&E now ranks in the top decile for gas utilities nationally based on industry benchmarking information.
  • Increased public outreach and education on our “Call Before You Dig” program, which ensures that gas lines are properly marked before any work by third-parties that involves digging into the ground.
  • Partnered with first responders and public safety officials to enhance emergency preparedness training programs. Highlights include conducting two full-scale emergency scenario exercises, facilitating more than 400 first responder workshops and completing more than 20 “tabletop” exercises to discuss safety scenarios with first responders. We also created a mobile application that gives first responders access to PG&E’s Gas Emergency Response Plan.
  • Added six new Mobile Command Center vehicles to our fleet, packed with technology that crews need to address emergencies in the field.
  • Increased staffing and training. We hired more than 300 new employees into all levels of our Gas Operations organization through January 2012, and expect to hire an additional 1,400 gas employees through 2014. More than 130 new training classes have been created for gas employees covering topics such as ground patrol, locating and marking leaks and repairing leaks.
Picarro Surveyor analyzer
PG&E vehicles are outfitted with the Picarro Surveyor analyzer.

PG&E was the first utility to begin using a car-mounted, advanced leak-detection device. The Picarro Surveyor analyzer—approximately 1,000 times more sensitive than traditional gas leak detection equipment—helps PG&E field crews quickly and efficiently identify where potential gas leaks may exist.

We are also working with utilities from across the industry to identify and implement the latest best practices and technologies. We also collaborated with the University of California, Davis to develop aerial leak survey technology using a fixed-wing aircraft. We also deployed new equipment to our distribution leak surveyors, including tablet technology and an instrument that uses infrared technology to pinpoint gas leaks with greater accuracy.

In 2013, we plan to survey our 6,750-mile natural gas transmission pipeline system using high-precision Global Positioning System technology. A more precise pipeline map means better service and enhanced safety for the public, our customers and employees. Additionally, our new state-of-the-art Gas Control Center is scheduled to open in 2013, providing our team with advanced capabilities to monitor and control the flow of gas across PG&E’s gas system around-the-clock to ensure it is delivered safely and reliably to customers.