On May 21, 2009, the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an Advisory Bulletin (PHMSA-2009-0148) entitled, “Potential for Low and Variable Yield, Tensile Strength and Chemical Compositions in High Strength Line Pipe” [1] recommending that pipeline operators investigate whether recently constructed pipelines contain pipe joints not meeting the minimum specification requirements (74FR2390). Based on PHMSA’s technical reviews, high resolution deformation tool inspection combined with comprehensive infield verification has been recommended in accordance with the “Interim Guidelines for Confirming Pipe Strength in Pipe Susceptible to Low Yield Strength,” issued by PHMSA in September 2009[2]. Kern River Gas Transmission Company (Kern River) underwent a detailed program of engineering and assessment in order to proactively demonstrate compliance with the interim guidelines. This paper discusses the process, inspection results and infield verifications performed by the pipeline operator. In particular, detailed consideration to the methodology of detection and assessment of potential pipeline expansions is presented with discussion on the special considerations needed for low level anomaly identification, reporting and verification of expansions as defined in the PHMSA guidelines. High resolution caliper analysis approaches developed for this particular application are discussed and appropriate techniques are recommended that consider the effects of possible asymmetry of expansions and impact of other deformations such as ovality. Field verification practices and findings are reviewed in detail with particular focus on the challenges facing the pipeline operator in resolving both tool and in-field measurement errors that can significantly impact the number of identifiable candidate expansions for verification. In conclusion, an overview of the assessment criteria and field activity to comply with the PHMSA interim guidelines are presented along with the lessons learned from the analysis, verification and remediation steps that may assist other pipeline operators as they address these newly established regulatory requirements.

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