THE SOURCE - Winter 2015 - (Page 25)

the pipeline Tracking and Traceability i By John Erickson n 1998, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report titled Brittle-Like Cracking in Plastic Pipe for Gas Service. That report alerted distribution operators that a rash of accidents had occurred on polyethylene (PE) pipe manufactured by Century Utility Products, DuPont Aldyl® A PE pipe manufactured prior to 1973 and plastic pipe manufactured from PE 3306 resin. Determining if these materials exist in a distribution system and where they might exist poses a great challenge. The information technology we take for granted today such as personal computers and smartphones did not exist in 1973 and the paper records of those days may not have captured all the information, nor are they easily searchable. In the May 21 Federal Register, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed to require operators to adopt the tracking and traceability requirements in the American Society of Testing Materials' F2897-11a, Standard Specification for Tracking and Traceability Encoding System of Natural Gas Distribution Components. "Tracking" in the PHMSA proposed rule means recording the location of pipe, the person who joined the pipe, and information about components within the pipeline. "Traceability" means recording the pipe manufacturer, lot information, size, material, pressure rating, temperature rating, and other information such as type, grade, and model for valves and other components. Utility operators will soon see a bar code on all the plastic pipe and components that they purchase. The American Society of Testing Materials' standard requires manufacturers to mark pipe and components with a 16-character barcode. When decoded, the barcode identifies the manufacturer, production date, material of construction, type of component, manufacturer's lot number, and component size. PHMSA's proposed rule would require operators to maintain tracking and traceability information records for the life of the pipeline. Operators may continue to record this information manually, but the maximum benefit will be to scan the barcode and store the location and encoded information in a computer database. A modern smartphone has the capability to scan the barcode, record the GPS coordinates and date, then transmit these data with relative ease back to a computer at the utility office or to storage on the cloud or both. A Google search turned up a 99 cent smartphone application called Scan to Spreadsheet that APGA downloaded and tested. It only takes a few seconds to scan multiple barcoded components. Imagine at a job site, such as a new service line installation, the installer scans the code on the tapping tee, scans the bar code on the plastic pipe as it is lowered into the trench, then scans the bar code on the anodeless riser as it is installed. In just less than a minute, all of the data encrypted in that bar code is stored on the smartphone, along with the time, date and GPS coordinates. Such a database would enable operators to accurately locate and quickly identify the installed pipe and components in their systems in the event of future product recalls or reports such as the 1998 National Transportation Safety Board report. It would also make it easier to determine whether plastic pipe or component failures are related to a certain type or vintage of material, specific product defect or design, heat/lot of the product, or whether it was produced by a certain manufacturer at a certain time. Individual operators may not be able to detect such a trend with just one or a few failures, but with many operators reporting plastic pipe failures to the Plastic Pipe Data Collection (PPDC) project, the natural gas industry has an early warning system to spot problems. APGA strongly encourages all members to participate in the PPDC. APGA continues to review the PHMSA proposed rule to determine if it is practical for the average public natural gas system and how it can be improved. Regardless of what happens with the PHMSA regulation, the concepts of tracking and traceability will be important for distribution operations in the 21st century and beyond. APGA is working with the application developer to produce a smartphone application that is affordable for even the smallest APGA member. For those members that are unable to store the installation information on their own computers, APGA may be able to store it for them. John Erickson is Vice President of Operations for APGA. THE SOURCE | winTER 2015, vOl. 8, iSSUE 2 25

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of THE SOURCE - Winter 2015

UP-TO-DATE: APGA helps readers keep current on public natural gas industry issues
APGA Events
First Person
Where Do APGA’s Furnace Rule Comments Stand Today?
Natural Gas Heat Pumps: Is the Timing Right?
Natural Gas Outlook for Winter 2015-2016
Pipeline to New Markets
Remember to Move Over
Legislative Outlook
The Launch of the APGA Community
The Pipeline
Marketing Matters
Advertisers’ Index/
At Last

THE SOURCE - Winter 2015