Thursday, February 6, 2020

PHMSA Publishes Pipeline Automated Valve NPRM

Today the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register (85 FR 7162-7189) for “Valve Installation and Minimum Rupture Detection Standards” for both natural gas transmission and hazardous material pipelines. The rule is in response to a congressional mandate {§4 and §8 of PL 112-9}, NTSB recommendations and comments received on a number of related advanced notices of proposed rulemakings.


The NPRM would provide a new and separate definition for the term ‘rupture’ to 49 CFR 192.3 and §195.2. This new definition would have no effect on the current use of that term in PHMSA annual reporting requirements. The new definition would be an operationally defined term describing an “uncontrolled release of a large volume of gas (or ‘hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide for §195.2).

The key point of the definition is found in the note at the end of the definition paragraphs:

“Note: Rupture identification occurs when a rupture, as defined in this section, is first observed by or reported to pipeline operating personnel or a controller.”

Automated Valves

The NPRM also proposes “regulations to meet a congressional mandate calling for the installation of remote-control valves (RCV), automatic shutoff valves (ASV), or equivalent technology, on all newly constructed and fully replaced gas transmission and hazardous liquid lines of at least 6” in nominal diameter. These valves would be used to close the pipeline within 40-minutes of the identification of a rupture.

In the event that a pipeline operator can demonstrate that the installation of such valves are not economically, technically, or operationally feasible to install RCVs, ASVs, or equivalent technology, PHMSA will authorize the installation of manual valves with the understanding that provisions are made to ensure that those manual valves will also be capable of being closed within the same 40-minute time frame.

Additionally, the rule would require that operators conduct initial and periodic validation drills to ensure that valves designated for rupture mitigation will close to ensure that the response and shut-off times of this proposal can be reliably and consistently achieved.

Finally, PHMSA is proposing the following maximum distances between rupture-mitigation valves:

• 8 miles for shut-off segments containing a Class 4 location (with or without an HCA);
• 15 miles for a shut-off segment containing a Class 3 location (with or without an HCA); and
• 20 miles for a shut-off segment containing HCAs in Class 1 or 2 locations.

Comments Requested

PHMSA is soliciting public comments on this NPRM. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (; Docket #PHMSA-2013-0255). Comments should be submitted by April 6th, 2020.

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