Today the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a safety advisory in the Federal Register (81 FR 54512-54514) clarifying terminology used to describe the operational status of pipelines and identifying the regulatory requirements operators must follow for the abandonment of pipelines. PHMSA was directed to take this action by Congress via Section 23 of PIPES Act of 2016 (PL 114-183).
As a result of a number of incidents where releases of natural gas or hazardous liquids resulted from inadequate maintenance of pipelines that were not active service PHMSA is issuing this safety advisory to remind pipeline operators that PHMSA only recognizes two types of pipeline status; active and abandoned. To be classified as abandoned the pipelines have to meet all of the standards under 49 CFR 192.727 (gas pipelines) 49 CFR 195.402(c)(10) (hazardous liquid pipelines). All pipelines not meeting the regulatory standards for being abandoned, must comply with all pipeline safety regulation requirements.
PHMSA is considering a rulemaking action addressing permissible deferred pipeline maintenance activities on pipeline segments that have not been abandoned, but that have been emptied and purged. Pending completion of that rulemaking, pipeline operators that intend to defer such activities on this type of idled pipeline should coordinate with PHMSA first.