Friday, October 1, 2010

Are we in Danger from our Gas Mains?

I've been waiting for three weeks for someone from CPS to come and change my gas meter to a smart meter.  The gas technician finally showed up yesterday, apparently changing meters is low priority.  It's lucky I work out of my house!

So I decided to take the opportunity to find out about the safety of the gas mains in San Antonio.  Well, first off, if you suspect you have a gas leak and you report it to CPS, you go to the top of the list, no waiting.
Lisa Krantz/Express News

When I asked the technician if SA was in danger of an explosion like the one that happened in San Bruno, California, he said that there are old gas mains in San Antonio, but the problem in San Bruno was lack of maintenance.  Gas mains in Texas are regulated by the Railroad Commission.  The name of the commission is confusing, in 1891 it was set up to regulate railroad pricing, but now its main function it to regulate oil and gas in Texas.  The commission's responsibilities range from well drilling permits to evaluating the work performance of the natural gas technician who came to my house yesterday.

Every year the Railroad Commission requires every natural gas utility in Texas to run tests of their gas mains using some pretty cool technology called a smart pig.  San Antonio was actually the testing ground for the prototype smart pig back in 1998.  So what the heck is a smart pig?  It's sort of like a torpedo that is sent through the gas mains.  As it travels it uses magnets to detect corrosion and ultrasound to find cracks and thinning metal.  When the pig identifies a problem it broadcasts a GPS signal back to the technicians so they know exactly where a main needs repair.
Calscan Smart Pig testing a pipeline

Now, you will probably say, but wait a minute I heard that there was a fire caused by a gas main rupture at Blanco and Huebner a few months ago. There was, but it was caused by a contractor digging in the the street and nicking the main.  In fact most gas main problems are caused by someone (contractor, home owner, etc) digging near a main and damaging it and then covering it back up and not informing CPS.  You see, there are fines involved, who wants to pay those.

So if you suspect you have a gas leak, notify CPS immediately (210-353-3333).  For tips on natural gas safety, check out the safety link on the CPS website. 

So, if you're out digging in the yard and you hit a pipe, don't cover it up, call CPS, after all the home that could blow up would be your own.

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