By David Kligman
OAKLAND — PG&E was recognized today (May 27) for earning two difficult-to-achieve international certifications, the result of the company’s commitment to transforming its gas operations and building a strong safety culture.
Attending a ceremony at PG&E’s Oakport yard in Oakland were dozens of gas employees from the area — among the 5,000 men and women who have worked tirelessly to improve PG&E’s gas safety and reliability while winning back the trust of its customers.
The reason for the ceremony was to recognize the company’s hard work and to acknowledge the difficulty of earning the certifications. In fact, the company is the first utility in the United States and one of only a few in the world to hold both the International Organization for Standardization and Publicly Available Specification certifications.
Lloyd’s Register Energy, an independent, internationally recognized auditor, awarded the certifications.
“I’ve worked in many utility companies around the world — from Australia and Malaysia, Europe and now all over the United States,” said Peter Glaholm, United Kingdom-based regional manager for Lloyd’s Register. “I would like to say that probably Pacific Gas & Electric Gas Operations has made the most progress in the last two years of any business that I’ve worked in. That’s quite an achievement. And I have no reason not to say that because that is the truth.”
PG&E President Chris Johns said he has never been more proud of the company’s gas team.
“It’s validation that we’re doing the right work and we’re doing the work the right way,” Johns said. “It doesn’t mean that everything is done. It means that we understand what good looks like and that we understand any and all gaps we have.”
Thorough analysis and 150 interviews
Earlier this year, Lloyd’s Register traveled throughout PG&E’s 70,000-square-mile service area reviewing safety practices, information and risk-management policies, employee qualifications, emergency-response protocols and more than 20 additional critical areas of asset management. The certification process also involved a series of rigorous, independent audits and interviews of more than 150 PG&E managers, field employees and contractors.
“It’s not something we do lightly,” said Glaholm. “You’ll notice that it’s my signature on the bottom of those certificates, signing it on behalf of Lloyd’s Register. I’m not going to sign those certificates unless I have confidence that those guys have got the systems in place required by those specifications.”
The ceremony kicked off with Jamie Anderson, a snowboarder from South Lake Tahoe who won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. She shared her story of commitment to be among the very best in her sport.
Tom Dalzell, the business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, spoke about the importance of safety.
“You have to keep that focus on performance. The same thing goes for safety. Every day, every hour, every minute, every job the focus has to be on safety,” he said.
And Rick Witte, a gas field person based in Oakland, talked about how technology and better mapping has helped crews.
“Being the No. 1 utility in the world means being safe and reliable,” Witte said. “And the passion that everyone out there has every day and you’re still looking for tripping hazards or if you want to stop a job to discuss it or if a hole needs to be re-measured, anything we need to do.”
The underlying requirements of the standards are the foundation of PG&E’s safety and asset-management system. They require the highest level of rigor for managing the company’s large number of physical assets, which include transmission and distribution pipelines, pressure regulator stations, gas storage facilities, meters and more.
PG&E is also strengthening its safety culture by investing in workforce development and supplying the latest tools and technology to enhance the safety and reliability of its gas service. Continuous improvement is at the heart of a safety culture and PG&E encourages all employees to raise issues and submit them through the company’s Corrective Action Program, where issues are tracked until resolution.
Hard work has been ‘amazing’ to watch
Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E’s executive vice president of Gas Operations, said the certificates represent more than two years of hard work, including inspecting pipeline, replacing pipeline, and validating maximum allowable pressure. In all, the company has invested $2.7 billion in its gas system over the past few years. He said PG&E faced a daunting challenge, but the company’s employees have made the improvements possible.
“The spirit of our co-workers — from Burney to Topock, from Fresno to Eureka and everywhere in between — has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “The grassroots effort that really is bringing public safety from the bottom up has been an amazing thing to watch.”
Stavropoulos added that despite the certifications, the work is not over. In fact, Lloyd’s Register will be returning in November to assess PG&E and ensure the stringent standards continue to be met.
PG&E’s Gas Operations must sustain the performance demonstrated at the time of initial certification and continue to improve in order for the certifications to be renewed.
Said Stavropoulos, “When it comes to safety, we will never be done.”
PG&E’s See Our Progress website details some of the company’s accomplishments.
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.