By Matt Nauman
SAN RAMON – Saying that PG&E has made significant improvements in the safety of its gas operations in 2012, several PG&E leaders on Tuesday (Dec. 18) showed off the new facilities that will house more than 1,600 employees in the near future.
“We’ve made tremendous progress,” said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E’s executive vice president of gas operations, “but the work we’ve done is just the beginning.”
Stavropoulos joined Jesus Soto Jr., PG&E’s senior vice president of gas transmission operations, and Mel Christopher, the company’s senior director of gas system operations, in a tour and news conference here at the still-under-construction facilities at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon.
In 2012, as part of its Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan (PSEP), PG&E has:
- Validated the safe operating pressure of 194 miles of transmission pipeline through hydrostatic tests and records validation;
- Installed more than 34 miles of new transmission pipeline in urban areas;
- Added or upgraded 46 automated valves in urban areas or in locations with active seismic faults.
“We’ve been working extremely hard over the last year and a half,” Stavropoulos told reporters. The amount of pipeline strength testing is unprecedented in the industry, he said.
PG&E met its PSEP goals in 2012 as it did in 2011, he said. The company continues to work to put in place all of the recommendations given by the National Transportation Safety Board after the 2010 San Bruno pipeline accident.
“We are laser-focused on enhancing the overall safety of our system,” said Soto.
Besides the actual construction work involved with strength testing pipes and adding valves, PG&E has done much work to improve its internal processes as well as its coordination with emergency responders, he said.
“Our level of preparation is dramatically different today than when San Bruno occurred,” he said.
PSEP is a phased plan that is currently under review by the California Public Utilities Commission. Work done in 2011 and 2012 has so far been paid by PG&E’s shareholders. By 2014, PG&E will have pressure tested or replaced nearly 783 miles of transmission pipeline and added 200 remotely controlled or automated valves. At the same time, nearly 200 miles of pipeline will have been upgraded to be able to accommodate in-line inspection tools known as “smart pigs.”
Tuesday’s event took place at Bishop Ranch, the new headquarters of PG&E’s gas operations. Some employees started moving in earlier this year. By next year, about 1,600 employees who previously worked in San Francisco, Concord, Walnut Creek, Fresno and other locations will be working at two buildings in Bishop Ranch.
Christopher gave TV crews a tour of the fifth floor that will house a state-of-the-art Gas Control Center by mid-2013. Today, it’s 48,000-square-feet of open space, but that will soon change. Crews have started working outside the building to put in on-site generators and fiber-optic lines.
Control rooms for PG&E’s gas transmission system and its 6,000 miles of pipes and the company’s gas distribution system with its 42,000 miles of smaller pipes will be co-located here. The facility also will have emergency-dispatch personnel.
The two control rooms will have large video walls that show all the essential information about PG&E’s gas operations in real time, Christopher said.
“We’re building situational awareness so we can make better decisions,” he said.