Pacific Gas & Electric will conduct comprehensive tests of Turlock’s aging natural gas pipelines in the coming weeks, in efforts to ensure the pipeline does not fail as in the 2010 San Bruno explosion which killed eight people.
To help local community members learn more about the hydro test, PG&E is holding an open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Crowell Elementary School cafeteria, 118 North Ave., Turlock.
The hydrostatic testing will not interrupt the flow of natural gas to households or customers, PG&E said. The work is only expected to cause minor traffic congestion where PG&E excavates small areas to access the pipelines.
The hydrostatic testing will see the pipeline segments removed from service, vented of all natural gas, mechanically cleaned, sealed on both ends, and completely filled with water. The water will then be pressurized much higher than normal operating pressure, and monitored for eight hours to detect leaks.
Should the test be successful, the pipeline will be emptied, dried, and placed back into service. If problems are found, the pipeline is replaced.
According to Richard Dye, with PG&E Government Relations, only two “pinhole” leaks were found in 160 miles of tested pipeline last year. One of those, in Bakersfield, was a 4-foot-long rupture in a pipe seam, which blew a “sizable crater” in a farmer’s field, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.
Though Turlock’s pipelines date back to the 1960s, PG&E officials said they have seen no indication of a problem with local pipelines.
Turlockers may smell natural gas when the pipeline is vented, which should quickly dissipate, and may also hear a loud bang, like a gunshot.
The work to test Turlock’s pipes will be conducted in two phases.
The first will test a segment along North Golden State Boulevard, from near Highway 99 to Fulkerth Road. The segment then proceeds south on Soderquist Road to Canal Drive.