LOS ANGELES, — Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) has officially announced that it will upgrade or replace 50 to 60 pipeline valves in 2017 to further enhance the safety of its system. The upgraded valves will feature the latest technology that allow operators to control the valves from a remote location, or that automatically shut off the valve if a drop in pressure is detected. The new valves will allow gas control operators to respond more quickly if gas flow needs to be shut off in an emergency. The effort is part of SoCalGas’ Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan (PSEP), a multi-billion-dollar program that tests and updates the natural gas pipeline infrastructure in Southern California.
Since the company began using this new valve technology five years ago, the PSEP program has replaced or retrofitted more than 100 valve locations. PSEP has five separate project teams dedicated to valve upgrades and retrofits, and will continue to replace and retrofit valves through 2022. SoCalGas completed 56 valve upgrade projects in 2016.
Valves control the flow of natural gas through pipelines. An open valve allows natural gas to flow freely, and a closed valve shuts off the gas flow to a pipeline segment. The company’s transmission system is equipped with valves that separate the pipelines into sections. In the past, qualified field personnel had to drive to the valve site to open or close a valve as needed.
Current technology, called Remote Control Valves (RCVs), allows valves to be opened or closed remotely by system operators from a central control location. Other new valves are equipped with a control device that automatically triggers a mechanism that shuts off gas flow in the event of a large pressure drop. These are called Automatic Shut-off Valves (ASVs).
SoCalGas uses both of these technologies throughout its pipeline system at strategic locations. As the company continues to upgrade and retrofit valves with RCV and ASV technology, operators will have more flexibility and can respond more quickly if a valve suddenly needs to be closed.
“Safety always comes first when operating a valve with RCV or ASV technology,” said Rick Phillips, senior director of SoCalGas’ Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan. “Valves can be closed automatically or remotely, however, they cannot be reopened remotely without physical verification by SoCalGas crews to ensure the safety of the public.”
SoCalGas dedicates significant resources to improving the safety and integrity of its more than 101,000 miles of natural gas pipelines. In 2017, the company plans to spend approximately $1.2 billion for improvements to distribution, transmission and storage systems and for pipeline safety.