PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2017

Gas Operations

At PG&E, we are dedicated to building and maintaining the safest, most reliable natural gas system in the country. To reach that goal, we’ve hired some of the most highly regarded gas safety experts in the country, tested and replaced hundreds of miles of natural gas pipeline, established a state-of-the-art gas safety operations control center, and pioneered ground-breaking gas-leak-detection technology. 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.

We have received several third-party certifications of our safety progress, including:

2016 Milestones

Gas Transmission System

PG&E continues to execute one of the most comprehensive gas transmission modernization programs in the United States. PG&E has achieved the following results from 2011 through 2016:

  • Validated safe operating pressure by strength-testing more than 835 miles of gas pipeline,
  • Replaced more than 175 miles of gas transmission pipeline,
  • Automated nearly 270 valves, enabling remote-control shutoff of gas in an emergency, and
  • Retrofitted more than 665 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, and leak-detecting cars, boats and all-terrain-vehicles to help identify leaks and make repairs when needed.

We use the Picarro Surveyor™, 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 2016 include:

  • Reducing the backlog of minor non-hazardous workable leaks by 99 percent since 2010, to an all-time low of 52—from about 12,200 in 2010, and
  • Responding to gas odor reports in an average of 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 was one of the first gas and electric providers to incorporate public safety metrics and targets into our operational goals and plans. We believe that tracking and reporting on these measures is essential. Examples of our accomplishments include:

  • Installed 268 automatic and remote shutoff valves. This milestone completed another safety recommendation issued by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following the 2010 San Bruno accident. We have now satisfied 11 of the 12 safety recommendations made by the NTSB for improving the operations and management of our natural gas pipeline system.
  • Made significant progress to enhance the safe operation of our gas infrastructure. Since 2011, we have validated safe operating pressure by strength-testing more than 835 miles of gas pipeline, replaced more than 175 miles of gas transmission pipeline and retrofitted more than 665 miles of gas transmission lines to accommodate in-line inspection tools.
  • Worked with customers and communities to improve emergency access to gas pipelines. The Community Pipeline Safety Initiative works in partnership with customers to check that the areas above PG&E’s more than 6,750 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline are clear from hazards and obstructions, which helps ensure that first responders have immediate access in an emergency and also helps prevent damage to the pipeline. In situations where a tree or structure needs to be removed or replaced for safety reasons, PG&E will work closely with the customer to address the item—all at PG&E’s expense—to ensure the safety of the community for years to come.
  • Continued building a state-of-the-art training facility. We continued building a new training facility in Winters (Yolo County) that will provide teams with a best-in-class training environment. For example, the site will include up to 15 small training homes and a scale replica of a residential street to train field service representatives on enhanced safety protocols using the latest technologies. The facility will also have a significant positive economic impact on the community and region through hotel, sales and property tax revenue. Doors are scheduled to open in 2017.
  • Became the first gas provider in the world to meet the chemical industry’s RC14001® management system standard. PG&E successfully passed a comprehensive gas safety audit reviewing numerous end-to-end safety processes to achieve certification to RC14001. This standard was issued through the American Chemistry Council for PG&E’s process safety; community communications; product safety; and occupational safety, health, environmental and security practices against which organizations can be evaluated and certified by a third party. The standard embodies the industry’s Responsible Care® Guiding Principles.

Measuring Progress

PG&E has met 11 of the 12 safety recommendations from the 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 2016
Gas Odor Response Times
Average response time in minutes 33.3 20.0
Percent response within 60 minutes 94.4% 99.7%
SCADA Footnote 1 Visibility and Control Points
Transmission pressures and flows 1,300 2,535
Distribution pressures and flows 295 2,870
Leak Backlog
Open Grade 2 and 2+ leak indications Footnote 2 12,203 52
Dig-In Reduction
Excavation damage per 1,000 excavation tickets 3.5 2.0
2010 2011–16
Gas Transmission
Miles of pipeline replaced 9 >175
Miles of pipeline hydrotested 0 >835
Miles of pipeline made piggable 130 >665
Automated valves installed 0 268
Percent of system with GPS centerline data Footnote 3 0% 100%
Gas Distribution
Miles of main replaced Footnote 4 27 >435
  • 1. Supervisory control and data acquisition.
  • 2. Grade 2 and 2+ leaks are minor and non-hazardous.
  • 3. GPS survey was completed for 100% of the accessible transmission pipeline system using highly precise mapping tools.
  • 4. In 2014, all known remaining cast-iron pipe was decommissioned.

Looking Ahead

PG&E continues to make progress toward becoming one of the safest and most reliable gas providers in the country. The CPUC approved a comprehensive scope of work through 2018 to:

  • Replace vintage pipelines that could be at risk from land movements,
  • Continue testing pipelines to verify safe operating pressures,
  • Continue controlling corrosion to avoid underground leaks,
  • Install more automated and remotely operated safety valves to quickly turn off gas in case of an emergency,
  • Inspect the interior of more pipelines to detect and repair hidden flaws,
  • Strengthen levee and water crossings,
  • Maintain underground gas storage facilities that help meet demand on cold days, and
  • Modernize infrastructure control systems, databases and risk analysis programs.