PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2018

Northern California Wildfires

Gas Operations

At PG&E, we are dedicated to becoming the safest, most reliable gas operator in the country. To accomplish this, we continue to test and upgrade our pipeline system and pioneer ground-breaking gas leak detection technology. In 2017, we opened two new facilities that directly support gas safety and innovation. These steps and many more represent our commitment to delivering a 21st-century gas system and meeting the needs of our customers.

Our Approach

As the owner and operator of one of the largest natural gas systems in the United States, PG&E is responsible for an integrated transmission, storage and distribution system that consists of approximately 42,800 miles of distribution pipeline (as well as additional mileage associated with individual gas services), 6,750 miles of backbone and local transmission pipeline and three gas storage facilities. The system also includes eight natural gas compressor stations, which receive and move natural gas through our pipeline network.

Our focus remains on maintaining and operating this system safely and reliably, with public and employee safety as the single most important driver of our work. To verify our progress toward enhancing safety and reliability, we seek third-party certification.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company has achieved the following:

  • Recertified for Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 55-1 and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 55001 for best-in-class asset management in 2017.
  • Became the first gas provider to meet the chemical industry’s RC14001® management system standard in 2016.
  • Became the first company in the United States to meet the rigor of a new industry standard for pipeline safety and safety culture: the American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice (API RP) 1173 in 2015.

2017 Milestones

Gas Transmission System

PG&E continues to invest in the safety and reliability of our gas transmission pipeline system. Since 2011, PG&E has achieved the following results through 2017:

  • Validated safe operating pressure by strength-testing nearly 1,100 miles of gas pipeline.
  • Replaced more than 200 miles of gas transmission pipeline.
  • Automated more than 290 valves, enabling remote-control shutoff of gas in an emergency.
  • Retrofitted more than 850 miles of gas transmission lines to accommodate in-line inspection tools, or “smart pigs,” which are used to inspect the condition of pipelines using sophisticated technology.

Gas Distribution System

We continue to improve the safety and reliability of PG&E’s gas distribution system through enhancements to leak response and repair, the deployment of new tools and technologies, and an overhaul of our approach to records and information management.

PG&E uses a diverse array of innovative tools to survey and inspect our gas infrastructure by air, land and water. Crews use handheld devices, aircraft equipped with LiDAR technology, leak-detecting cars, boats and even all-terrain-vehicles to help identify leaks and make repairs when needed.

We use the Picarro Surveyor™ as a detection vehicle, which is 1,000 times more sensitive than any other leak detection device. Since 2014, PG&E’s Picarro gas leak survey vehicles have surveyed more than 1 million gas service lines—enabling us to address leaks faster than ever and avoid releasing methane into the environment.

Other highlights from 2017 include:

  • Reducing the backlog of minor non-hazardous workable leaks by 99 percent—from about 12,200 in 2010 to 65 in 2017.
  • Responding to gas odor reports in an average of just over 20 minutes.

PG&E is also improving the quality of, and access to, our gas distribution records by using a Geographical Information System (GIS). This system allows PG&E to more comprehensively map, reconcile and analyze data associated with our distribution assets.

Embedding Public Safety into our Operating System

PG&E has incorporated numerous public safety measures into our operational goals and plans. Examples of our accomplishments include:

  • Installed 291 automatic and remote shutoff valves during the 2011-2017 timeframe. Among the critical safety investments we’ve made to harden our gas infrastructure, automatic and remote shutoff valves on our transmission pipelines quickly turn off gas in case of emergencies or natural disasters like earthquakes or wildfires.
  • Made significant progress to enhance the safe operation of our gas infrastructure. Starting in 2011, we have validated safe operating pressure by strength-testing nearly 1,100 miles of gas pipeline, replaced more than 200 miles of gas transmission pipeline and retrofitted more than 850 miles of gas transmission lines to accommodate in-line inspection tools.
  • Opened a state-of-the-art training facility. PG&E opened a 30-acre Gas Safety Academy featuring the latest training technologies, including heavy equipment simulators, virtual learning resources, a model neighborhood for emergency response and leak detection, and educational programs on industry-leading safety protocols. The facility, in Winters (Yolo County), will also have a significant positive economic impact on the community and region through hotel, sales and property tax revenue.
  • Opened the Center for Gas Safety and Innovation. PG&E opened the facility, which includes workspace and a lab that’s home to three groups within PG&E’s Gas Operations. At the site in Dublin (Alameda County), the teams will use some of the industry’s most advanced tools, testing capabilities and lab resources to ensure the safe operation of its gas system.

Measuring Progress

PG&E has met 11 of the 12 safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the San Bruno accident. We are focused on safely and responsibly completing the final recommendation, which includes strength-testing natural gas transmission lines. It is currently in “open-acceptable response” status, indicating that the NTSB regards PG&E’s progress as appropriate and acceptable. Our gas system progress is detailed in the table below.

Gas System Progress
2010 2017
Gas Odor Response Times
Average response time in minutes 33.3 20.4
Percent response within 60 minutes 94.4% 99.6%
SCADA Footnote 1 Visibility and Control Points
Transmission pressures and flows 1,300 2,841
Distribution pressures and flows 290 2,785
Leak Backlog
Open Grade 2 and 2+ leak indications Footnote 2 12,203 65
Dig-In Reduction
Excavation damage per 1,000 excavation tickets 3.5 1.89
2010 2011–17
Gas Transmission
Miles of pipeline replaced 9 >200
Miles of pipeline hydrotested 0 >1,090
Miles of pipeline made piggable 130 >850
Automated valves installed 0 291
Percent of system with GPS centerline data Footnote 3 0% 100%
Gas Distribution
Miles of main replaced Footnote 4 27 >585
  • 1. Supervisory control and data acquisition.1
  • 2. Grade 2 and 2+ leaks are minor and non-hazardous. 2
  • 3. GPS survey was completed for 100% of the accessible transmission pipeline system using highly precise mapping tools.3
  • 4. In 2014, all known remaining cast-iron pipe was decommissioned.4

Looking Ahead

PG&E continues to make progress toward becoming the safest and most reliable gas provider in the country. PG&E’s 2018 Gas Safety Plan (PDF) provides a high-level programmatic view of both the work we accomplished in 2017 and our plan moving forward. The plan also includes a new section describing how PG&E is applying best practices to address greenhouse gas emissions, including our plan with respect to 26 best practices related to natural gas leak abatement.