Part of PG&E gas main in Palo Alto is salvaged pipe | November 11, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 11, 2011

Part of PG&E gas main in Palo Alto is salvaged pipe

Company documents show some pipe was reused during 1957 relocation

by Sue Dremann

A gas-transmission line that runs through Palo Alto and Stanford University contains at least 22 feet of reused, salvaged pipe dating to 1947, according to PG&E documents.

California Public Utilities Commission lawyers blasted PG&E for its use of salvaged pipe in an Oct. 19 filing and accused the company of knowing about faulty seam welds dating to 1948.

The reuse of salvaged pipe has also come under scrutiny by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the San Bruno incident that killed eight people in September 2010.

The commission's legal department said PG&E documents that show reuse of salvaged pipe "raise serious safety concerns both for the future and for past safety, including the causes of the San Bruno pipeline rupture.

"The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been unable to certify the provenance of the ruptured pipe, or whether any pups that made up the pipe had previously been used elsewhere in PG&E's system. Moreover, we believe that PG&E cannot accurately certify that no other re-used and/or deficient transmission pipe remains in service."

Four records show that 2,500 feet of 24-inch-diameter pipe in Palo Alto/Stanford was moved starting in 1957. But none indicate the disposition of that pipe, besides the 22 feet that was reused.

A Jan. 1, 1957, construction drawing indicates that Line 132, which was the gas main that exploded in San Bruno and runs down the Peninsula, was relocated along Page Mill Road between Junipero Serra Boulevard and El Camino Real.

Regarding the 22 feet of reused pipe, PG&E wrote in its Oct. 20 response to the Utilities Commission that the pipe in Palo Alto dates from 1947.

"PG&E is hydro testing this section of pipe this year," the company wrote.

Last Friday (Nov. 4) PG&E announced that crews performing hydro tests near Palo Alto found a leak that is estimated to be about 1 millimeter in diameter. It is not known yet if the leak is located in the reused portion of pipe.

The 4-mile hydro test area contains nearly 21,000 feet of 24-inch seamless pipe that was installed in 1947. About 2,700 feet has a seam weld and was installed in 1957, PG&E said.

On Tuesday, crews determined that that leaking pipe was located on Page Mill, under the eastbound lane, between Hanover Street and Peter Coutts Road. One lane was blocked Tuesday as crews dug the pipe out; testing and repairs were scheduled to proceed Tuesday and Wednesday, according to spokesman Brian Swanson.

PG&E in its reply to the California Public Utilities Commission said that the reused, salvaged pipe and the issues pertaining to the 1948 welds are not new to PG&E or the industry.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Like this comment
Posted by midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2011 at 11:27 am

Nice reporting. Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2011 at 11:44 am

Good job with this article!

Does anyone know when PG&E will finish work on Alma Street (between Colorado and El Dorado)? They began working a couple of months ago and it doesn't look like they will finish anytime soon.

It is extraordinarily loud and the workers have blocked driveways, part of the road and have almost caused several accidents.

Of course, I want them to get it right (and safely enough to relieve fears about the neighborhood blowing up ala San Bruno). However, they have released enormous amounts of natural gas that seeped into our open windows and nearly gagged us.

It would be nice if they could let us know when they will release some gas like that.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Get it done right, no matter how long it takes or how much it costs. We really do not want our neighborhood to blow up. And keep good records this time.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm

While people are focused on PG&E's management of gas pipe by the PUC, we all need to keep in mind that the PUC does not have any similar authority in Palo Alto. We are depended on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as the only oversight agency that has shown any interest in Palo Alto's gas line safety in the past.

Presumably the City Auditor has the authority to review the gas line safety, but there is no expertise in this group to do much more than audit sales tax receipts.

So .. while folks are looking at PG&E about their management, they should be asking: "Who is looking at the Palo Alto Utility?"

Like this comment
Posted by not a PeeGeenE fan
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I wouldn't be too sure the PUC is the be all and end all. We had problems with PG&E trying to retroactively charge us for old accounts that were closed in writing, and for which PG&E actually owed us money (but had avoided paying because of their bankruptcy). PG&E admitted their need to change the record came from a SOX audit. We kept writing and telling them that wasn't right and complained to the PUC, which basically took PG&E's word for what they were doing and did nothing at all.

Interesting that in our situation, too, they claimed not to have the records, but demanded payment for money no one owed them unless we gave them OUR paperwork.