The PHMSA “Mega Rule” in Practice

PHMSA’s Final Ruling – What’s Next for Pipeline Operators?

What is the PHMSA Gas Mega Rule? The new Gas Mega Rule doubles previous regulations for onshore gas transmission, in regards to pipeline safety and environmental risk. The new mega rule operates with the goal of improving pipeline safety. With new regulations for operations and increased requirements for reporting, pipeline operators will need to ensure they are in compliance.

It is important that Gas Transmission pipeline operators review the changes to 49 CFR Parts 191 and 192 and adjust integrity programs as necessary to achieve continued regulatory compliance. Gas Transmission operators should assess their readiness and align their current in-place integrity management programs and operating practices to meet PHMSA’s regulations, the deadline for process and procedures due July 1st, 2021.  At a minimum, an operator should develop a “Mega Rule Response Plan” that includes four key focus areas outlined as follows

PHMSA’s Mega Rule is now published and officially came into effect on July 1st, 2020, in which gas transmission operators should assess final rule readiness and begin preparing for the potential impact on in-place integrity management programs and operating practices. The key regulatory drivers behind PHMSA’s new ruling was in response to the following occurrences:

  1. Incidents with significant consequences are still occurring within industry
  2. There are concerns raised during inspections of gas pipeline operator programs
  3. The NTSB Safety recommendations following the two incidences in San Bruno, CA (2010) and Sissionville, WV (2012)

The US Congress mandated the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act in 2011. This required PHMSA to address the following key activities:

  1. Expand Integrity Management requirements beyond High Consequence Areas (HCAs) to Moderate Consequence Areas (MCAs)
  2. Require pipeline operators to verify records to establish Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP)
  3. Require testing of untested pipe to confirm MAOP

Now that the Final Rule has been published, Part 1 has largely focused on Operations and Maintenance that applies to all transmission pipelines, which makes up roughly 260,00 miles of pipe throughout the US. It will also have significant impacts for Non- HCA (Class 3 and 4) and MCA mandates that affect over 17,000 miles of pipeline in the US, as well as the clauses that affect Integrity Management Program requirements that are applicable to HCAs which affects roughly 20,000 miles of pipe throughout the US. These key impacts for MCAs and MAOP Reconfirmation are outlined below.

Ensures that systems are in place to calculate and identify both HCAs and MCAs on an on-going basis, along with the supporting processes to capture and align pipeline right-of-way adjacent structures along with other pipeline attribute information.

Moderate Consequence Areas

Moderate Consequence Areas (MCAs) are defined as areas that have 5 buildings located within a potential impact circle (as opposed to 20 buildings that define an HCA). There is no provision for “Identified Sites” or “Occupied Sites” in the MCA definition. Furthermore, designated interstate, other freeway, expressway and other principal arterial roadway with 4 or more lanes that is not defined in the HCA definition. These are new aspect for the analysis that operators must review as part of their reporting process.

The Mega Rule also included Material Verification which applies to segments without traceable, verifiable, complete material documentation records in HCAs and Class 3 or 4 locations that are not already in an HCA. The proposed rule included requirements on when it had to be performed, however, this was removed from the Final Rule. 192.607 presents the methods and requirements when material verification is required by other sections of the code.

Determines pipeline segments that require material verification according to §192.607 and develop procedures for material verification in conjunction with analysis of predicted failure pressure during pipeline assessments §192.712.  In addition, an operator should review the data management practices that will be used to capture and integrate material property information.

MAOP Reconfirmation

Another significant addition to The Rule that applies to HCAs, Class 3 and 4 (not already an HCA), and MCAs that can accommodate In-line Inspection (ILI) where; pressure test records are not traceable, verifiable and complete, as well as the current MAOP >30% smys and was established by the “Grandfather Clause.”

The requirements for operators to have in place by July 1, 2021 includes the following:

  • Integrity Management Plan in place and all required procedures documented by July 1, 2021
  • 50% of pipeline mileage verified by July 3, 2028
  • 100% of pipeline mileage by July 2, 2035

Required Testing for Untested Pipe

Required testing of all previously untested pipe was a critical update for operators to address. Informally known as the “Grandfather Clause”, it previously had stipulated that operators with pre-1970 pipe did not have to test these pipeline assets. The new mandates now made this a requirement to have all pipelines tested.

Operators who have addressed the key areas outlined above with respect to required Integrity Management Programs and operating procedures in place by the stipulated deadlines will be well prepared for any potential regulator audit and will ensure their pipeline operation and maintenance programs are regulatory compliant with both state and federal regulators.

Partner with consultants who understand the intricacies of the Mega Rule

Your success depends on making good decisions. The foundation of your decisions is accurate and timely data-driven information. That’s our role. Our consulting, along with our IRAS Suite of risk and integrity management applications, optimize risk-informed decisions through an asset’s entire life cycle. Contact us for more information about how our team can help you implement the PHMSA Mega Rule at your organization.