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Natural gas pipeline safety in Ohio

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The PUCO is committed to ensuring the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of Ohio's natural gas pipeline system. PUCO investigators inspect each natural gas pipeline system in the state at least once every two years and review records and procedures implemented by utilities. When violations are detected, the PUCO orders corrective action and may assess fines and other penalties to ensure that Ohio’s natural gas pipeline systems continue to deliver natural gas safely and reliably.

Ohio is home to over 100 unique pipeline operators that operate over 56,000 miles of distribution lines, over 10,000 miles of transmission lines and over 1,100 miles of gatherings lines. The PUCO employs field inspectors who perform compliance inspections of gas pipeline operators to ensure they are following design, construction, operation and maintenance safety regulations.  

What rules and regulations apply to natural gas pipelines?

Natural gas pipeline safety rules are developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The state of Ohio has adopted the federal regulations, and the PUCO enforces the regulations through a cooperative agreement with the federal government. Ohio extended some of the gas pipeline safety rules to gathering lines used to collect gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale fields that would normally would not be subject to federal rules.

 You can find more information about PHMSA’s State Programs here.  To view Ohio’s Program Evaluations, click here


What is the general condition of natural gas pipelines in Ohio?

The condition of Ohio natural gas pipeline network varies by operator. Each operator has the obligation to demonstrate that their piping is in a condition that meets or exceeds the minimum federal safety standards. Most high pressure transmission lines are constructed with protected steel. Lower pressure distribution lines are made from plastic or steel, and older lines may be made from steel, cast iron or copper. Each operator submits an annual report to the PHMSA describing their pipeline network including the type of piping used and number of leaks detected and repaired. This data is available on PHMSA's website here.

Are operators required to replace pipes after they reach a certain age?

The pipeline safety regulations do not specify an age limit for pipelines, but instead rely on performance standards to ensure safety. Among other criteria, pipelines must be protected from corrosion, have adequate wall thickness and be free of dents. Pipeline engineers determine what segments of pipe may be at risk and require further evaluation. The PUCO evaluates this information as part of its inspections.

What extra protections are in place for pipelines running through populated areas?

The pipeline safety regulations require operators to lower the maximum allowable operating pressure of the pipeline, increase the frequency of leak surveys and odorize gas so leaks can be readily detected.

What actions has the PUCO taken to increase natural gas pipeline safety above and beyond the federal pipeline safety regulations?

The PUCO has taken action to have some older piping materials removed and replaced. In 2020, the PUCO required Ohio’s four major natural gas utilities to gradually update old cast iron and bare steel pipelines with more modern protected steel and plastic lines. 

Ohio Gas Main Replacement Programs (Bare Steel and Cast Iron1)
Company/Data Duke Energy Columbia Gas Dominion Energy Ohio4 CenterPoint5
Program term 15 years 25 years 25 years 15 years
Program year in 2020 Program completed in 2015 13 13 12
Original estimated program cost $716 million $1.8 billion $3.4 billion $337.5 million
Proposed replacement miles 1,200 4,100 5,572 708
Appropriate miles replaces through 20202 1,133 2,167 2,039 404
Estimated dollars spent through 20203 $678.2 million $1.842 billion $1.928 billion $367 million

1Program mileage and costs includes replacement of bare steel, cast iron, wrought iron, interspersed plastic segments, and first-generation plastic mains and service lines.
2Approximate miles replaced only includes miles of main lines replaced because service lines are reported as number replaced rather than miles.
3Estimated dollars spent includes only estimated costs for replacement of mains and service lines replaced in conjunction with main line replacements.  For reporting consistency, costs for meter move-outs, hazardous service line replacements, risers, automated meter reading devices and other costs are not included.
4Dominion Energy Ohio is seeking a five-year extension/renewal of the program, see case 20-1634-GA-ALT.
5CenterPoint Energy Ohio's statistics are through calendar year 2019, CenterPoint will be submitting their calendar year 2020 data amounts in May 2021.