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Natural Gas Pipeline Leak Response and Compliance

CFR Environmental was retained by a major natural gas pipeline operator to provide regulatory guidance and eliminate the risk of a potential major incident associated with pipeline leaks. A 42-mile section of a major natural gas pipeline was temporarily out-of-service for routine maintenance. Upon completion of the maintenance activities, the pipeline operator began pressurizing the pipeline by introducing gas. Employees were stationed at each valve location over the length of the evacuated pipeline and were monitoring the system as the pressure was increasing. Leaks were detected in three separate valves at different locations along the pipeline, including one leak that was close to private residences.

The pipeline operator made the decision to cease pressuring the line and to evacuate the entire 42-mile section to repair the leaking valves and further inspect other valves. The evacuation of a 42-mile section of natural gas pipeline meant venting over 750,000 pounds of natural gas into the atmosphere. The pipeline operator contacted CFR Environmental to help navigate the regulatory landscape of the natural gas emissions. Upon review of state permit exemptions, CFR Environmental determined that a pipeline operator can vent natural gas, assuming the following conditions are met:

  • Proper notification is made

  • Emissions are tracked

  • Emissions are below the exemption limits.

CFR Environmental recommended using a temporary flare to reduce VOC emissions to stay under the exemption limits. This resulted in additional carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide emissions, however, emissions were also under the exemption limits. The evacuation of the pipeline could proceed, averting a potential major incident, avoiding the risk of a potential explosion in a residential area.

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