By David Kligman and Melissa Subbotin
WINTERS — PG&E today (Sept. 27) opened its new Gas Safety Academy, which will serve as the primary training center for employees learning to operate and maintain every aspect of the company’s natural gas infrastructure.
The 30-acre academy features the latest training technologies, including heavy equipment simulators, virtual learning resources, a model neighborhood for emergency response and leak detection, and educational programs on industry-leading safety protocols.
This is the third in a series of gas safety facilities to open since 2013. PG&E’s Gas Control Center launched in 2013 in San Ramon as the company’s air traffic control for the gas system while the Center for Gas Safety and Innovation debuted this past summer in Dublin.
PG&E President and Chief Operating Officer Nick Stavropoulos said the state-of-the-art center demonstrates the company’s commitment to its workforce and customers. He also said it wouldn’t be possible without the partnership from the IBEW, benchmarking with other companies and support from city officials.
“This is going to make California a safer place,” said Stavropoulos. “It’s going to make PG&E a stronger company. It’s going to be a place where, years from now, we’re going to look back and say this is a transformational event for our company.”
Each week, the academy will host about 150 gas employees and will provide nearly 36,000 hours of training every year.
The center will offer a wide range of curriculum and field training for gas transmission and distribution pipelines, meter maintenance, heavy equipment operation, welding, pressure control, customer service, gas appliance operation, excavation and education on safety standards and procedures.
“The experts who operate and maintain PG&E’s gas system play a critical role to keep customers safe and gas service reliable,” said Tom Dalzell, business manager for IBEW Local 1245. “This facility will be a significant resource for our members and we’re pleased by the investment PG&E made to employee training.”
Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, attended an industry night event on Tuesday and commended PG&E for its safety investment.
“I’ve worked with PG&E and its senior leaders since 2011 and I’ve spent a lifetime observing companies and their cultures, missions and visions. True leaders help drive that culture every day and they also dedicate the necessary budgets to invest in an educated and safe workforce,” said Hall. “I know PG&E’s new Gas Safety Academy will be a fixture in this community for decades and will help set the bar for safety training in the gas industry.”
The Gas Safety Academy features:
- Three main buildings totaling 96,000 square feet
- A “Utility Village” of 15 small homes creating near real-life conditions for emergency response and leak detection training
- A “Flow Lab” for trainees to gain hands-on experience in regulating and monitoring the pressure and flow of natural gas
- A welding lab to accommodate apprentice welders during their three-year apprenticeship
- A simulation room to give trainees a simulation experience on trucks and excavation machinery used in the field
The academy opens nearly two years after PG&E’s groundbreaking in this small Yolo County city, located about 30 miles from Sacramento, on farmland that once produced apricots and tomatoes. The center took shape after five years of research, benchmarking, design and construction, and significant investment of time and resources.
Local residents came to the grand opening under warm, sunny skies. A host of dignitaries also attended, including State Sen. Bill Dodd, Winters Mayor Wade Cowan, Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar Curry and City Manager John Donlevy.
There was a flag ceremony presented by a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Winters and an American Legion Post from Woodland. Local recording artists performed the National Anthem.
In lieu of a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, there was a plastic pipe fusing to celebrate the opening.
“We want to train and have the most competent workforce in the field to ensure that our employees are safe and that the public is safe,” said Jose Leal, a senior technical training instructor and 14-year PG&E employee. “That’s the most important thing.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.