This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Scott Glaeser discussing the impact that the Mega Rule will have on the industry for years to come, and how the capital needs for MAOP reconfirmation are almost as much as full pipeline replacements.
In this episode, you will learn about the Mega Rule’s impact on gas utilities and pipelines and how the industry is using the rule to upgrade and modernize transmission systems across the country. Scott and Russel also discuss rate riders, and how they will help companies with MAOP reconfirmations or installations of new pipelines in order to be up to code.
MAOP & The Mega Rule: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Scott Glaeser is the Project Manager Pipeline Integrity for Burns & McDonnell, where he is responsible for growing pipeline integrity services offered by the company to its utility, interstate pipeline, and midstream clients across the U.S. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.
- Burns & McDonnell is a family of companies bringing together an unmatched team of 10,000+ engineers, construction professionals, architects, planners, technologists, and scientists to help those who work in critical infrastructure sectors deliver on their imperative responsibilities. With an integrated construction and design mindset, the company offers full-service capabilities with more than 60 offices, globally. With a mission unchanged since 1898 — make clients successful — Burns & McDonnell partners with companies on the toughest challenges, constantly working to make the world an amazing place. Learn more at burnsmcd.com.
- FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) regulates, monitors, and investigates electricity, natural gas, hydropower, oil matters, natural gas pipelines, LNG terminals, hydroelectric dams, electric transmission, energy markets, and pricing.
- PHMSA (Pipeline And Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) protects people and the environment by advancing the safe transportation of energy and other hazardous materials that are essential to our daily lives. To do this, the agency establishes national policy, sets and enforces standards, educates, and conducts research to prevent incidents. They prepare the public and first responders to reduce consequences if an incident does occur.
- NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) in 2016 PHMSA proposed to revise the Pipeline Safety Regulations applicable to the safety of onshore gas transmission and gathering pipelines. PHMSA proposed changes to the integrity management (IM) requirements and proposed changes to address issues related to non-IM requirements. This NPRM also proposed modifying the regulation of onshore gas gathering lines.
- Mega Rule – The rule, initiated over 10 years ago, expands the definition of a “regulated” gas gathering pipeline that is more than 50 years old. It will—for the first time—apply federal pipeline safety regulations to tens of thousands of miles of unregulated gas gathering pipelines.
- Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968 (Pipeline Safety Act) was authorized by the Secretary of Transportation to prescribe safety standards for the transportation of natural and other gas by pipeline, and for other purposes.
- MAOP (maximum allowable operating pressure) was included in a bulletin issued by PHSMA informing owners and operators of gas transmission pipelines that if the pipeline pressure exceeds MAOP plus the build-up allowed for operation of pressure-limiting or control devices, the owner or operator must report the exceedance to PHMSA on or before the fifth day following the date on which the exceedance occurs. If the pipeline is subject to the regulatory authority of one of PHMSA’s State Pipeline Safety Partners, the exceedance must also be reported to the applicable state agency.
- The San Bruno or PG&E Incident in September 2010 refers to a ruptured pipeline operated by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. The rupture created a crater near San Bruno, California, caused an explosion after natural gas was released and ignited, and resulted in fires that caused loss of life and property.
- NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is a U.S. government agency responsible for the safe transportation through Aviation, Highway, Marine, Railroad, and Pipeline. The entity investigates transportation incidents and accidents and makes recommendations for safety improvements.
- PG&E is one of the largest combination natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. The company provides natural gas and electric service to approximately 15 million people throughout a 70,000-square-mile service area in northern and central California.
- Rate Rider is a temporary credit or charge that is added to your monthly bill on behalf of the electricity or gas distributor.
- Rate case proceedings previously addressed the costs of operating and maintaining the utility system and the allocation of those costs among customer classes.
- A Hydrostatic Pressure Test is a method to use pressure to evaluate the strength of a pipe and determine the presence of leaks.
- SMYS (Specified Minimum Yield Strength) is a measurement of a pipe’s strength, as determined by the manufacturing specifications of the pipe.
MAOP & The Mega Rule: Full Episode Transcript
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 241, sponsored by Burns & McDonnell, delivering pipeline projects with an integrated construction and design mindset, connecting all the elements – design, procurement, and sequencing at the site. Burns & McDonnell uses its vast knowledge and the latest technology and an ownership commitment to safely deliver innovative, quality projects. Burns & McDonnell is designed to build and keep it all connected. Learn more at burnsmcd.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now, your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliner’s Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time, and to show that appreciation, we give away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener every episode. This week, our winner is Anna Goldinez with Magellan Midstream Partners. Congratulations, Anna, your YETI is on its way.
To learn how you can win this signature prize, stick around until the end of the episode. This week, Scott Glaeser with Burns & McDonnell joins us to talk about the Mega Rule and the opportunity to be proactive, a different view on pipeline integrity. Scott, welcome to The Pipeliners Podcast.
Scott Glaeser: Thank you, Russel. It’s great to be here.
Russel: I’m going to have to apologize. I’m fighting a sinus infection, so I don’t sound like myself. I may be hacking and coughing a little bit. I’ll try to minimize all that. Anyways, before we get going, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and what you do at Burns McDonnell?
Scott: Sure. Like many in the gas industry, my background is in engineering, mechanical engineering. I graduated from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. I actually started in the steel industry, but I was assigned to the energy infrastructure and energy supply for the integrated steel mill.
My job was pipelines and all the infrastructure and energy supply, like natural gas and fuel oil for the steel mill. That’s how I got my start. In fact, on my first day on the job after safety training, they put me out in the field to do the as-built drawing markups on a brand new gas transmission pipeline they just finished for the blast furnace complex.
I literally have been working on pipelines and natural gas since my first day on the job after graduating from college, some odd 30+ years ago.
Russel: That’s awesome.
Scott: Now, after the steel – I was steel for about four years – I saw opportunities in the utilities sector of FERC deregulation of the natural gas industry. That’s when I made my move to Ameren Corporation, which is based here in St. Louis, Missouri, and worked on the natural gas utilities side for my whole career there.
Worked my way up through ranks, and was lucky enough to be involved in almost every aspect of natural gas, from regulatory compliance to operations, engineering, business development. I got involved with everything, which was a fantastic experience. It really set my career.
Then after leaving the utilities sector, I went to work in the engineering and consulting world at Burns & McDonnell. One of my goals here is to help all my former fellow utility folks make their way through the PHMSA Mega Rule and compliance with that massive new rule that recently came out.
Russel: That’s a nice tee up there. What is the impact of the Mega Rule on gas utilities?
Scott: Well, the Mega Rule, as its name and implies, is massive and broad and far encompassing, but there’s some major focus points. One of the biggest focus points is what we call grandfathered transmission pipelines. That is basically transmission pipelines that were built prior to 1971.
Why that date is important is because the original Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act was issued in 1968 and became effective in 1971. All the pipelines up to that point in time were basically grandfathered. Obviously, those pipelines now are aging. They’re over 50+ years old. A lot of issues about confirming the MAOP of those older pipeline systems.
Russel: I know, with the San Bruno incident and some of the findings out of that, which was a grandfathered pipeline, that there was a lot of things that came up that caused, I would just say, made it a priority for the regulators to address issues related to grandfathered pipe.
Scott: Yeah, that is actually one of the outcomes of the NTSB investigations and other investigations, was that at San Bruno, there was 1950s vintage pipeline involved. It was an unknown grade and unknown seam type. PG&E didn’t have a good handle on what was the quality and the integrity of that pipe.
That was the big driver behind the MAOP reconfirmation aspect of the Mega Rule. PHMSA, the federal government, wants all the operators, utilities, and transmission operators to go back and reconfirm the MAOP of all the transmission lines, but especially those pre-1971 vintage pipelines, which was a direct result of the San Bruno event and the San Bruno investigations and recommendations by NTSB.
Russel: That’s no small thing. That’s a big lift. It’s a big, big effort, and particularly for those utilities that have lots of older pipe.
Scott: Yes. I remember, I was at Ameren when the initial drafts of the Mega Rule came out. They were called a NOPR, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. They came out a couple years after San Bruno, probably about 2013, 2014. I was going through those with my team at Ameren, and our jaws were hitting the floor.
We were like, “Oh, my god. How are we going to be able to do all this?” Ameren is a classic gas utility. We had pipelines, some of our pipelines dated back to the 1930s and were still in operation. Even though we did a lot of work to ensure integrity and safety, we knew there were a lot of missing records.
There was documentation like material test reports and pressure tests that were just missing, gone, misplaced, destroyed. Ameren was actually the result of several utility acquisitions and mergers over many years. You can imagine, when another company takes over another company, and they move things, and boxes of records get moved, and then they get lost.
We knew, “Oh, my gosh, MAOP reconfirmation, all of our records, we’re going to have holes. This is going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Russel: I think probably most of the industry at this point has a pretty good handle on just how a big a challenge that this MAOP reconfirmation is going to be. I guess the question that I would have is what’s the opportunity with all of this?
This is one of those things, you really don’t have a choice. You have to do it. What’s the opportunity?
Scott: It’s a mandate, that’s correct. You’re exactly right. It is a federal mandate for pipeline safety. Utilities and the operators have to do this work. The one good thing is PHMSA has given everybody 14 years to comply, which may seem like a lot of time, but when you look at the magnitude and the scale of this work and effort, it actually is not a lot of time. All the utilities need to get on board fairly quickly.
Let me step back to when we first read the draft of the Mega Rule, and our jaws were hitting the floor, because the magnitude and scope of it, and the missing records, we knew we were going to have a massive challenge. Then I also realized something that is very important.
This also was an opportunity for us to modernize and upgrade our transmission system. A little bit of history of gas utilities. You will recall, Russel, in the prior decades, especially in the late ’80s, ’90s, early 2000s, there was a lot of effort by gas utilities to replace their distribution systems to modernize distribution, replace cast iron, and bare steel distribution pipes.
A lot of energy and effort investment was made on distribution. The transmission systems, not a lot of focus and not a lot of investment and replacement or modernization going on. The transmission system’s been aging for several decades here with not a lot of energy around it.
The Mega Rule is changing that now and creating this opportunity now. This is our chance to catch up and then modernize our transmission infrastructure across this country.
Even though it is at the end of a hammer from PHMSA, that does create another opportunity in that, since it’s mandated pipeline safety work, you have very strong evidence to use with the state regulatory commissions to get favorable regulatory treatment for these types of investments.
We’re talking, for a typical utility, not millions of dollars, or tens of millions of dollars, we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in their transmission systems now, where historically, those investments weren’t that large.
The key is for utilities to work with their state regulators and their state legislature to get favorable legislation and regulatory treatment of these investments, and to recover those investments and earn on those investments as they’re being made.
The optimal, what I call, solution or optimal tool for that is what we call in the utility industry a rate rider.
Russel: There you go. I was going to ask you, “What’s a rate rider?”
Scott: [laughs] A rate rider, which is a great question, a typical utility bill, you’ll have your base rate. You’ll have your meter charge and your delivery charge for delivering the gas, and then there’s typically a gas charge, or a PGA, purchased gas adjustment, for the actual natural gas.
Rate riders are rate surcharges that layer on top of those base charges for very special purposes. I’ll give you one example as an environmental rate rider.
If utilities have a lot of environmental cleanup work to do, like for old manufactured gas plant sites, they’ll get a special rate rider approved for all those costs to be put in that rider and then recovered from the customers on that line item on their bill.
That reduces regulatory lag and ensures recovery of those investments by the utility. The utilities really need to get that rate rider treatment in place for their investments in transmission to comply with the Mega Rule. I’ll give you one example.
For Ameren, in Illinois, we had what we called the QIP rider, which is the Qualified Infrastructure Plant, which is a clunky name, but it really was transmission investments and other types of investments to modernize our gas systems.
We could put in that rate rider and recover from our customers month to month. We wouldn’t have to wait for a rate case. A rate case typically takes 16 to 20 months to fully execute between preparing the case, 11 months to execute the case at the commission, and then getting the orders and rehearings after that.
You have this huge, almost two-year lag, versus a rate rider, which can be actually changed month to month, and recover those incremental investments as they’re being made in the field.
Russel: I don’t know, this is an area of gas operations I’m not that familiar with. Certainly, I understand what a rate case is, but to me, this is a big deal, because I would assert that we as an industry need to modernize a big part of our infrastructure.
Scott: Yes, absolutely.
Russel: We haven’t been looking at that, because you couldn’t financially justify it. Now, we’ve got a way to financially justify it.
Scott: Correct, yeah. The great thing about a rider mechanism to recover these investments is that the investment community – I hate to just say Wall Street, because it’s made up of many different players, but the investment community – utilities that have these rate riders for these big and huge investments, that becomes a very attractive investment for that community.
In other words, you can attract a lot more capital if you have this type of rate rider to make these investments, which frees up even more capital to modernize that infrastructure and to get the new pipe and upgrades in place. I’ll give you one quick example.
Ameren’s a big electric and then gas utility. Electric first, big E, little G, you’ve probably heard that before. [laughs] A lot of money flowed to the electric side, the power plants, the nuclear plant, the power transmission lines. We didn’t get as much, and then we were smaller.
Once we had that QIP rate rider in place and started making these transmission and other investments in our gas systems, our CFO really, really appreciated that, and so did the board. They saw that as a great investment vehicle for getting that real-time recovery of those investments as they’re made and placed into service.
Russel: Scott, we probably ought to unpack this a little bit for people that maybe are not that familiar with how this works. I think one of the challenges in a public utility, their goal is to keep the prices down, right? There’s a process you go through between the utility making a case for, “This is what our fees should be,” and the public organization that’s overseeing that trying to keep the cost to the customers down.
That works well, until you start needing to make really large capital investments. Now, you start having a problem, because there’s not really a mechanism for doing large capital investments in that kind of structure.
Scott: Yeah, because there’s that natural resistance from the commissions to hold down rate increases, to hold down those massive investments, because it causes the rates to increase over time. That’s true. What we also see, there’s a paradox inside the utility commissions, because the utility commission is made up of different groups.
You’ll have the pipeline safety group. You’ll have the accounting group, the rates and tariffs group. There’s actually friction within those groups, because the pipeline safety side of the commissions, their job is to actually enforce these regulations, like the Mega Rule, on the utilities and audit for compliance to ensure pipeline safety.
They actually want the utilities to execute these projects, to do this work, to make these investments, because at the end of the day, it does make the transmission system safer. That’s the bottom line. This is improving safety, period. That part of the commission wants that.
Then the rates side of the commission doesn’t want rate increases. You have this natural friction within the commissions themselves.
Russel: Sure. No, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that, but that makes sense, too. What price safety, but we’ve still got to make a profit.
Scott: We still have to make a profit, because the commissions also realize, and the commissions, most of them do a fairly good job of balancing all these different interests. They realize that utilities have to be profitable to attract capital to invest in the systems for the future, whether it be building new power plants or new pipelines, or upgrading and modernizing their aging structures.
They still have to attract capital. If they’re getting hit too hard from bad rate case outcomes, and they’re not as profitable as they should be, that makes it more difficult to raise capital, which then reduces the utilities ability to invest and modernize their infrastructure.
A good commission, these state regulatory agencies, they realize that. They have to maintain that balance. It’s not easy, but I think most of them do a fairly good job at that.
Russel: I would agree. I would certainly agree. Let’s talk a little bit about MAOP reconfirmation. That is such a big topic, and certainly, the gold standard, if you will, of MAOP reconfirmation would be a hydro test.
Russel: That’s problematic when you have gas pipelines that are required to deliver product to keep the lights on.
Russel: Yeah, keep the lights on, keep the homes warm, and all that. How are these companies going to approach this MAOP reconfirmation?
Scott: That is a great question. We could probably spend a whole nother episode just on this topic. I’ll try to keep it focused and brief. Again, the MAOP reconfirmation is one of the primary focuses of the Mega Rule. As we’d previously discussed, it’s really focused on those pre-1971 pipelines.
In many cases, there is inadequate information or missing pressure tests, and so forth, to really confirm and verify those MAOPs that they’ve been utilizing all these years, and so now that PHMSA’s requiring all the utilities to go back and reconfirm.
All those pipelines are in service today, delivering gas to customers, to industrials, to power generation, and now, we have to do all this work, which may include hydrostatic testing. Russel, as you know, hydrostatic testing requires you to completely isolate that transmission line segment from the system.
Then it has to be filled with water or other media and pressure tested over a certain amount of time. Then, of course, if it fails the test, you have to make those repairs and redo the test until you have a successful test. Then, once that’s done, the pipeline has to be dewatered, dehydrated, and then reconnected in the system.
Typically, for maybe a two- or three-mile transmission line segment, you’re talking two weeks or three weeks. Well, you can’t put all your customers out of service for two to three weeks. What that means is the utility has to make arrangements for alternative gas supplies, whether it be CNG trailers, or portable LNG plants, or even building temporary or short-term networks or crossties with their system to backfeed that area.
You can see where this is headed. All that gets very expensive. Now, the cost of doing those hydrostatic tests starts creeping up on the cost of total replacement, or just putting in a brand new pipeline. That’s the decision a lot of utilities have to face.
As you know, at the end of the day, if you do a hydrostatic test on a 1950s vintage pipeline, at the end of the day, you still have a 1950s vintage pipeline, and you just spent a lot of money on testing and verifying that pipeline. Versus that money could have gone to a full replacement.
Russel: Yeah, I haven’t looked at any project estimates of doing a hydrostatic test versus doing just a line replacement, but I think it’d be interesting. Have you looked at that? How comparable are those price points?
Scott: That is something we do every day. We’re doing that for clients right now under the MAOP reconfirmation rule. Sometimes – I’ll just give you fractions – the full, complete life cycle of hydrostatic testing, TBC records, and material verification can run 25, 30, 35 percent or more of the replacement cost.
It can get big, and it can get bigger than that, too, especially if you have big areas that have to be supplied with natural gas during the outage. That number can get even bigger. Let’s say you’ve got a two-mile segment, and it’s going to cost five million to replace it with a brand new pipe.
The TBC records, the hydrostatic testing, the outages, the temporary supplies, that could add up to $2 million or more.
Russel: Goodness gracious.
Russel: Boy, that starts becoming a really difficult decision.
Scott: Yes, it does.
Russel: Wow. I just have to sit here and process that a little. It’d be a lot easier if the numbers were more compelling.
Russel: Two million to five million, you’d say, “Well, that’s compelling, but at five million, I’ve got a brand new pipe.”
Scott: You’ve got a brand new pipe.
Russel: You’ve got all the modern records verification and all of it’s digitized. Yeah, that’s, wow.
Scott: Yeah, there are some things that make the decision easier. Utilities will have their transmission integrity management programs, their TIMP programs. They’re doing constant year-by-year work, gathering data and information on the integrity of those transmission line segments. They’ll have information like cathodic protection reads. They’ll have leak history. Sometimes, they’ll do excavations and do testing on the pipe to verify its condition. They have a lot of information about the integrity and condition of that pipe in most cases.
Sometimes, it might be a little thinner, but in many cases, they have a lot of understanding of the integrity of that pipe. If they have a 1950s pipe, and they’ve got corrosion issues, or maybe they have some stress corrosion cracking problems, or maybe seam weld problems, and maybe they’re getting coating disbondment, that drives that decision towards replacement, then.
We’re not even going to bother with the hydrostatic tests. As a matter of fact, we’ve had projects with the clients that they screened transmission line segments to do the MAOP reconfirmation, and before we even started, “We know the integrity of this line segment. We’ve got some issues here with stress corrosion cracking and bonding of the coating. We’re going right to replacement. We’re not going to spend a penny on records research, testing, PFL builds, or any of that. We’re going right to replacement.” There are things that make the decision easier, but then the utilities have to balance available capital with those decisions, too.
Russel: Right, which is why they’ve got 14 years to execute.
Scott: Yes, yes, because they’d need that timeframe. The capital needs for the industry under the MAOP Reconfirmation Rule are huge. When you look at the operators across the country doing the same work in the same 14-year timespan, it’s pretty impressive.
Russel: Yeah, it’s very compelling, for sure. I want to ask about – you’ve already talked about this a little bit, I want to unpack it a little bit more – this idea of replacement versus reconfirmation. I’ll frame the question this way. This comes out of my ignorance.
What is the difference in doing a plastic pipe replacement than a steel pipe replacement, cost wise?
Scott: First of all, you’ve got to look at, is it transmission or distribution? At transmission, at certain pressures and percent SMYS, you can’t use plastic at all. You have to go to steel. That drives that decision. If you’re at a much lower pressure and smaller diameter, you can go to polyethylene, to plastic, as a replacement.
There could be some cost savings there in construction and so forth. For high-pressure, high-stress transmission, it’s steel all the way.
Russel: Sure. I guess what I’m wondering is if there is a case that could be built for using plastic pipe at a lower pressure, but double, putting more than one pipe in the trench to support the flow that you need for the demand?
Scott: You’d be multi-pipe, and then larger diameter multi-pipe, too.
Scott: Now, your costs are starting to go up. Now, you’ve got multiple pipelines in the same trench. Also, you have to look at your right-of-way agreements. Your right-of-way agreements may only allow for one pipeline. In many cases, you have to go back to the landowners to negotiate for multi-pipe installation.
Russel: Ew, that doesn’t sound good.
Scott: [laughs] Landowners can be difficult, as you know, Russel, and they may say no, or they may say, “Yes, but I want X amount of dollars for you to do that, plus any damages during constructs.” [laughs] That drives your cost of plastic up as well.
Russel: Right, interesting. Well, it’s never easy, right? It’s never easy.
Scott: No, it’s a complex business, and it’s an important business. What we do in the natural gas industry is critical for our country, our way of life, and our economy. That’s why I enjoy working in it so much.
Russel: Yeah, what we do matters. It matters. People rely on us.
Scott: It definitely matters, yes.
Russel: People rely on us, for sure. What would you offer to utilities that are diving into this project, just call it that way? What would you offer to them as, “Here’s the things you need to be looking at or thinking about as you’re getting started with your reconfirmation effort”?
Scott: A couple areas you need to focus on. One is you’ve got to get a handle on your records. What are the conditions of your records? What is the completeness of your records, and what do you think is missing? That, by itself, can be a massive task.
We’ve seen companies literally had banker’s boxes stacked to the ceilings in a warehouse that had to go through and dig out all their critical documents, like pressure test reports, MTRs, work orders, and projects, CAD drawings, old paper CAD drawings and stuff.
Literally, part of what we do with TBC is pouring through these old documents, finding that information, and piecing together the history of that pipeline to understand how it was built, what materials were used, and what the pressure ratings of all those materials are.
You’ve got to get a hold of your records and understand the condition of them, and you’re going to need help, too. Very difficult for a utility, with their existing labor resources, engineers, and technical folks to have that capacity to do all work on top of their normal work. You’ve got to bring in help.
Russel: I say this all the time. There’s certain work that takes you a certain amount of time and effort just to wrap your brain around the problem before you can make effective progress. If you’re doing that kind of work and being interrupted by things like customers, it makes it very difficult to do that kind of work.
Whereas, if you can focus on it, it can be done much more quickly.
Scott: Yeah. You literally have to dedicate teams, and we’ve seen this with some of our clients. They’ll have literally an MAOP reconfirmation team that are dedicated to this project.
Then they’ll bring in companies like us, like Burns & McDonnell, to help work that effort with the TBC records research, with doing the hydrostatic testing, and doing the replacement project, the design engineering, the construction for replacements as well.
They’ve got to have help. The other aspect they need to focus on is their TIMP, or their integrity management program, which they do day to day, month to month, anyway. Really, focus on which of our transmission assets are already in marginal shape.
We just need to target those for replacement at the get-go and just schedule those in that 14-year timeframe I talked about. Just get them scheduled. You can’t do them in year one, but you’d better start making progress by year two and three to target that 14-year deadline.
Russel: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Getting a handle on your records, to me, that would be very much necessary, and any other analysis you’re doing to try and understand how to go about reconfirmation or replacement is all going to be predicated on what records you do or don’t have.
Scott: Exactly, and that’s where these projects start. They start with the records. Literally, we’ve been digging through old file rooms from records that hadn’t seen the light of day in decades [laughs] and getting them out. One of the things we do is we digitize them and then index them, so we can work everything digitally, which is a huge benefit.
Then from the digital records, we can then rake off the critical data we need to calculate the MAOP.
Russel: I have to ask this question, in going through and doing that effort, what kinds of things have you found that were surprising to people?
Scott: Oh, boy, that’s a loaded question.
Russel: Well, I don’t want to call anybody out, but to me, it’s an interesting question.
Scott: I won’t call anybody out. I’ll just give you some examples. We were digging through old survey books for pipeline construction that are all handwritten, handwritten notes, little diagrams, little drawings, little, cute drawings on where the pipe is in the trench, and where it is in relationship to roads, landmarks, and stuff, and trying to compare that with CAD drawings, with purchase orders, and project work orders, and tie all that data together.
It gets pretty interesting. It’s like investigating, I don’t want to say a crime, but it’s like an investigation, basically, to piece together the history of that pipe.
Russel: You’re probably old enough, like me, to remember when you carried a job book around. That’s what you did. That’s a big part of what an engineer did, was drawings, notes, and all that kind of stuff.
Scott: Yep, all handwritten.
Russel: Yeah, that’s because that’s all you had.
Scott: Yeah, we didn’t have computers out in the field. We didn’t have smartphones and all this good stuff they have today.
Russel: Just getting a camera out into the field to take a picture was a big deal.
Scott: Yeah, exactly.
Russel: Look, this has been really awesome. I think I have a better understanding of what the challenge is here, and I think I have a better understanding of the opportunity. I’m going to try and summarize it, say, “Here’s my three key takeaways from this conversation.”
The first takeaway is to get a handle on your records. The second takeaway is to get clear about those things you know for sure you’re going to replace, and put that into a plan. Probably going to be 14 years long, but put it into a plan. Then the last piece is to start doing the analysis for figuring out what you’re going to do with everything else.
Scott: Russel, you get an A+ for today.
Russel: That’s good, that’s good. All right, well, this has been great, Scott.
Scott: I enjoyed it.
Russel: Thank you for showing up, and we’ll have to have you back in another year or two.
Scott: Oh, I enjoyed it.
Russel: We can share some more fun stories.
Scott: Some more war stories with you.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of The Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Scott. Just a reminder before you go. You should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit PipelinePodcastNetwork.com/win and enter yourself in the drawing.
Russel: If you have ideas, questions, or topics you’d be interested in, please let me know either on the Contact Us page at PipelinePodcastNetwork.com, or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.
Transcription by CastingWords