EXCLUSIVE: Pipeline safety check costs $2M

EXCLUSIVE: Pipeline safety check costs $2M
Joseph Boivin
Joseph Boivin

The gas company has spent $2 million to check out 22 miles of underground pipelines.

It's to prevent a disaster like the deadly 2010 explosion in Northern California.

In a recent filing with the state Public Utilities Commission, Hawaii Gas said a federally mandated inspection only found minor issues with its pipeline.

"It was a pretty good bill of health but it identified three specific anomalies -- none of them serious -- but three of them did require the addition of some steel plating to further reinforce the pipeline," said Joseph Boivin, senior vice president at Hawaii Gas.

The 2010 explosion in San Bruno, Calif., which killed eight people, has placed local gas companies have come under intense scrutiny on how they inspect their pipelines.

Companies like Hawaii Gas must now spend millions to comply with federal inspection requirements.

Boivin said the company used high-tech pipeline inspection gauges, or PIG, to check nearly the entire length of its transmission line.

He said the check uncovered some minor scrapes to segments near Honolulu Airport and the Salt Lake area that was likely caused by digging by backhoes or other equipment used by local construction companies.

"These scrapes or indentations are the beginnings of what could be something more severe," he said.

Construction work and faulty pipelines are the most common causes for gas ruptures. In the case of the San Bruno fire, poor pipeline welds, combined with too much gas pressure caused the tragic explosion.

The company is seeking after-the-fact regulatory approval to pass on the $2 million cost.

It says the impact on the average customer's bill will be minor while the safety benefits are considerable.

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