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Turlock natural gas pipeline in need of fix

POSTED July 1, 2011 7:21 p.m.

An evaluation by Pacific Gas and Electric of the natural gas pipelines in the state has turned up 7.5 miles of pipeline in need of pressure reductions, including a stretch in Turlock.

The 7.5 miles of pipeline consists of multiple shorter segments within PG&E’s 5,700 miles of pipeline, said PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles.

In Turlock, PG&E identified 12 feet of pipeline that needs to be reduced by 8 percent to bring it in line with its maximum allowable operating pressure, Boyles said. PG&E would not state where the stretch of pipeline in Turlock is located.

“PG&E’s first and foremost concern is public safety and we want to stress that — even though we are reducing pressure — the system is and was safe,” the utility company said in their report detailing the evaluations.

In the wake of the devastating explosion in San Bruno, PG&E was directed by the California Public Utilities Commission to review the classification of its natural gas pipelines to determine if the classification had changed since the initial designation. The classification is based on the number of homes and businesses within any continuous one mile of pipeline. Each classification is assigned a maximum allowable operating pressure.

A class change requires an operator to confirm or revise its maximum allowable operation pressure if more people live nearby. A classification change does not change the pipeline’s ability to operate safely.

PG&E has already reduced 3.5 miles of the pipeline and is in the process of reducing the remaining four miles. The utility company is also reviewing the records of another approximately 100 miles of pipe and may need to make additional pressure reductions, if warranted.

PG&E may need to restore operating pressure on some of the lines or segments in a heat wave or other emergency situation to avoid electric outages.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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