Monday, September 13, 2010

The San Bruno Catastrophe Goes to the State of Infra-Structure in America

This morning, Huffington Post connects the same dots as my initial reaction did to the San Bruno calamity earlier this week on 9/11/2010.
...natural gas pipeline did fuel a fireball that reached 1000-feet in the air and sparked a frightening blaze. It was no less a tragedy to a community that lost at least four lives and found dozens of their neighbors instantly homeless. And it was no less a reminder that infrastructure improvements are still needed to save lives throughout the United States.

As residents began returning to inspect the damage on Sunday night, they were greeted by a scene almost unimaginable in suburban America. There was no trembling ground that preceded the wrath of mother nature, no trembling hand that preceded the wrath of a bomber. Instead, authorities are still trying to figure out how a 30-inch pipe that was installed in 1956 could do this...

The prime suspect is all too familiar. Terrible infrastructure failures have grabbed headlines in recent years, but not just in the third world countries. They've happened all over the U.S., from New Orleans, La., to Webber Falls, Okla., to Kilauea, Hawaii. On Thursday, it was San Bruno, Calif.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the probe to determine what happened. The California Public Utilities Commission has ordered PG&E Corp., the utility company involved, to inspect all of their 5,700 miles of pipeline statewide.
(Read More.)

The U.S. is crisscrossed with more than 2.5 million miles of fuel pipelines, or enough to circle the earth about 100 times. U.S. regulators may now step up inspections and increase the industry’s maintenance costs.

Mark Easterbrook, a pipelines analyst with RBC Capital Markets in Dallas, says,

Regulators will probably look for more integrity spending on pipelines. We’re probably going to see incremental increases in the future, with more attention on older pipelines.
Blaine Leonard civil engineer in Utah and president of the American Society of Civil Engineers says,
Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s in bad shape, but the risk is certainly increased. There’s a lot of hidden infrastructure and we can’t be complacent about it. So much of our economy and quality of life depends on it.
Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, says:
Older pipelines are much more at risk because we didn’t have the protective technology that we do now. Old pipes had either no corrosion protection or were wrapped with material that looked like tar paper.
Pipelines can be inspected using devices called pigs that run through sections of pipe, deploying sensors and cameras to detect cracks, corrosion and other defects from the interior. Companies can also pump fluids through the pipe at high pressure to test integrity, or dig up sections for visual inspections.

If only we could find extra manpower and financial resources, not currently employed in our national interests, to assign to this vital need.


  1. Vig,

    Thank you for this post, which underscores why ALL CALIFORNIANS MUST DEFEAT the oil and gas industry's Prop 23 on California's November ballot.

  2. Some just can't get with the program it seems.

    It's war we need to be safe not pipe inspection ya see!

    Thanks too for this.

  3. Why more of the 862 billion didn't go to fixing stuff like this remains a total mystery to me.

  4. Gods... all my liberal friends are getting settled into (much entitled to) cynicism. I'm happy to see all still blogging and saying what they think! I am in line with Emily who is saying what it is ... stand and be heard for the right causes / reasons.

    Still the cosmic pollyana. Hope to bitch so.

  5. ...and the American public continues to bitch (from their self-centers) about taxes. That's what taxes should be for--people and causes which deserve them.