Safer Gas Storage Facilities

Approximately 400 gas storage facilities are located across the United States

Following a gas leak at the Aliso Canyon Underground Natural Gas Storage Facility near Los Angeles, California in October 2015, an interagency taskforce led by the Department of Energy and Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Administration (PHMSA) recommended expanding federal safety regulations for gas storage facilities across the country.

The leak at Aliso Canyon raised questions regarding the environmental impact of gas storage leaks as well as the impact on electric and gas system reliability. The leak also highlighted a patchwork of state regulations and a lack of federal minimum safety standards. New federal regulations aim to strengthen operations and maintenance procedures. In response to a PHMSA advisory bulletin issued last year, storage operators are actively reviewing their operating, maintenance and emergency response procedures to ensure they adequately address the potential for facility leaks. They are also reviewing the location and operations of shut-off valves, leak detection equipment and emergency plans.

The interim final rule issued on January 18, 2017 incorporates by reference two industry standards (American Petroleum Institute’s Recommended Practice 1170 “Design and Operation of Solution-mined Salt Caverns used for Natural Gas Storage” and 1171 “Functional Integrity of Natural Gas Storage in Depleted Hydrocarbon Reservoirs and Aquifer Reservoirs”) and clarifies responsibility for safety inspections.

The new regulations also require storage operators to file annual reports, incident reports and safety-related condition reports using an assigned Operator Identification Number (OPID).