PHMSA Publishes Long-Awaited Plastic Pipe Final Rule

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Oil Patch HDPE PipeIn November, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced the issuance of a Final Rule that amends the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations for plastic piping systems used in the transportation of natural or other gas.

The updates in the final rule, go into effect Jan. 19, are intended to improve safety, allow for the expanded use of plastic pipe products in the transportation of natural or other gas, and allow or require the use of certain materials and practices.

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“Advancements in plastic pipe design and manufacturing have resulted in products that are much safer today than they were 20 years ago,” said Skip Elliott, PHMSA administrator.  “These regulatory updates will significantly contribute to advancing public safety.”

The updates take into consideration the changing technologies and issues affecting plastic pipe. They address concerns with installation and operational safety issues associated with plastic pipe, as observed by federal and state inspectors during routine field activities. Additionally, several industry petitions received by PHMSA requested that the agency consider regulatory updates for plastic pipe that align with new innovations in manufacturing and design, as well as current best practices in plastic pipe installation.

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The Final Rule will only apply to new, repaired, and replaced pipelines. Regulatory updates include an increased design factor for polyethylene pipe; updated standards governing the use, maximum pressure limits, and diameters for pipelines made of polyamide 11 and 12 thermoplastics; new and expanded standards for the installation of plastic pipe to help mitigate contact with other underground utilities and structures; and several other installation and operational related provisions for plastic pipe and plastic pipe components.

As a result of the Final Rule’s updated design factor, the cost of materials to produce new pipe is estimated to be reduced by 10 percent, resulting in an annual material cost savings of approximately $32 million for transmission, gathering, and distribution operators.

“This is another major milestone in providing the nation with a reliable system of natural gas delivery,” stated Tony Radoszewski, CAE, president of the Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. (PPI).  “PHMSA’s new ruling encompasses a number of items that will reduce costs and improve safety.  These include expanding the diameter range of approved pipe, increasing pressure limits, adding to the inclusion of technologically advanced plastic pipe, and requiring that all plastic pipe have a listed Hydrostatic Design Basis (HDB).”

Members of PPI worked with PHMSA, providing independent technical expertise and data at the request of PHMSA.

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