Hydrostatic pressure testing is a process that uses water to exert pressure on a pipeline at levels greater than its usual operating pressure to see if it has any leaks. It is one of the many industry-standard tools SoCalGas uses to help maintain the safety and integrity of our natural gas pipeline system.
At Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas®), the safety of our customers, our employees, and the communities we serve has been and will continue to be our highest priority. Reflecting that commitment to safety, we construct, operate, and maintain our pipeline system to meet or exceed applicable federal and state regulations and requirements. SoCalGas routinely performs various pipeline safety and maintenance tasks, including patrolling, inspecting, testing, repairing and replacing pipelines.
All natural gas transmission operators in the State of California are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and in 2011 the CPUC ordered the operators to each develop an Implementation Plan to achieve the goal of orderly and cost-effectively testing or replacing all natural gas transmission pipelines in their system that have not been pressure-tested.
SoCalGas supports this extra added measure of pipeline safety ordered by the CPUC, and submitted a proposed Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan (PSEP) to implement the directives of the Commission which was approved in June of 2014.
While SoCalGas is proud of our safety and reliability achievements thus far, we will not become complacent and will challenge ourselves to be even more diligent in maintaining the overall safety of our pipeline system and infrastructure. We believe that all customers will benefit from the added testing and safety validation of our transmission system.
The approved Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan (PSEP) identifies various pipeline sections throughout our system that have not been pressure-tested, or for which there is no record of a pressure test, and slates them to be pressure-tested or replaced. SoCalGas will be notifying customers, and the public, when pressure testing or replacement activity is coming to their neighborhood.
The Plan also includes provisions to upgrade, replace, or retrofit hundreds of mainline valves in the system with technology that allows them to be opened or closed remotely by system operators from a central control location, or that automatically shuts off the flow of natural gas in the event of a large pressure drop.
PSEP is designed to meet the following four objectives:
- Enhance public safety;
- Comply with the Commission's directives;
- Minimize customer impacts; and,
- Maximize cost-effectiveness.
While SoCalGas awaited official approval of the Plan by the CPUC, the Commission authorized us to start conducting hydrostatic pressure tests and replacing some of the pipelines included in the Plan. PSEP-related field activities began in July of 2013 and are continuing.