PG&E reveals pipeline modernization plan

PG&E has unveiled an extensive pipeline modernization plan that would cost USD 2.2 billion over the next four years. But consumer advocates and elected officials were outraged by the company’s proposal that customers pick up 90% of the expense. The proposal consists of overhauling 20% of PG&E’s pipeline system by inspecting hundreds of miles of aged pipe, replacing other gas lines and adding automated valves to shut off gas in emergencies. It must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. The company calculated the expense through 2014 at USD 2.18 billion, with its customers responsible for USD 1.96 billion. It expects to charge them USD 769 million through 2014. This would increase a typical residential gas customer’s monthly bill from USD 1.93 to USD 47.16. The remainder of the expense would be billed to PG&E customers over 40 years. As per the proposal, PG&E plans to overhaul more than 1000mi of gas transmission pipes out of the 5786 total miles it operates in Northern California between now and 2014. That would involve replacing at least 186mi of pipe, inspecting 243mi of gas lines with robotic devices (pigs), retrofitting 199mi to accommodate pigs and assessing the strength of 783mi of pipe that have older weld technology or other possible troublesome characteristics. PG&E also proposed installing 228 automatic or remotely controlled gas shut-off valves in critical urban areas, especially near earthquake faults. This would help avert the problem PG&E encountered during the 9 September 2010 San Bruno explosion, where it took about an hour and a half for crews to manually shut off gas to the inferno. Additional funds would go towards upgrading PG&E’s computerized gas-control system.

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