[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 44 (Tuesday, March 6, 2012)]
[Pages 13387-13388]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-5424]



Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

[Docket No. PHMSA-2012-0044]

Pipeline Safety: Notice to Operators of Driscopipe[supreg] 8000 
High Density Polyethylene Pipe of the Potential for Material 

AGENCY: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), 

ACTION: Notice; Issuance of Advisory Bulletin.


SUMMARY: PHMSA is issuing this advisory bulletin to alert operators 
using Driscopipe[supreg] 8000 High Density Polyethylene Pipe 
(Drisco8000) of the potential for material degradation. Degradation has 
been identified on pipe between one-half inch to two inches in diameter 
that was installed between 1978 and 1999 in desert-like environments in 
the southwestern United States. However, since root causes of the 
degradation have not been determined, PHMSA cannot say with certainty 
that this issue is isolated to these regions, operating environments, 
pipe sizes, or pipe installation dates. While the manufacturer has 
attempted to communicate with known or suspected users, PHMSA and the 
National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR) have 
identified several operators currently using Drisco8000 pipe who had 
not received communications about the issue. PHMSA is issuing this 
advisory bulletin to all operators of Drisco8000 pipe in an effort to 
ensure they are aware of the issue, communicating with the manufacturer 
and their respective regulatory authorities to determine if their 
systems are susceptible to similar degradation, and taking measures to 
address it.

ADDRESSES: This document can be viewed on the PHMSA home page at: 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Max Kieba by phone at 202-493-0595 or 
by email at [email protected]. Pipeline operators with potentially 
affected pipe or anyone with questions specific to actions in a certain 
state or region are encouraged to communicate with the appropriate 
pipeline safety authority directly. Operators of pipelines subject to 
regulation by PHMSA should contact the appropriate PHMSA Regional 
Office. A list of the PHMSA Regional Offices and their contact 
information is available at: http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/pipeline/about/org. Pipeline operators subject to regulation by a state should contact 
the appropriate state pipeline safety authority. A list of state 
pipeline safety authorities and their contact is provided at: http://www.napsr.org/managers/napsr_state_program_managers2.htm.


I. Background

    Two operators of natural gas pipeline systems have identified 
locations of material degradation on Drisco8000 pipe in Arizona and 
Nevada. The manufacturer of the pipe, Performance Pipe, a division of 
Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, confirmed that the pipe was 
    In 1999, a one-inch Copper Tube Size (CTS) Drisco8000 pipe service 
line in Arizona experienced a gas leak and was found to be degraded. 
The operator of this pipeline found areas of delaminating and surface 
cracking on Drisco8000 pipe ranging from one-half inch CTS to two 
inches Iron Pipe Size pipe at various locations in Arizona beginning in 
2004. To better track the instances of the phenomenon, the operator 
implemented a procedure for reporting, defining the degradation area, 
and conducting leak surveys on the affected pipe. Chemical 
contamination was considered a potential source for degradation, but 
after extensive testing by the manufacturer and various outside 
laboratories, no indications of chemical source could be verified as a 
root cause.
    In 2007, the operator experienced a gas ignition incident on a one-
inch CTS Drisco8000 service line in Arizona. Due to the slit crack 
nature of the pipe failure, the investigation of this incident included 
checking for the possibility of nylon contamination in the pipe 
material. Nylon contamination was ruled out, but degradation of the 
internal pipe wall was noted. An additional incident occurred elsewhere 
in Arizona in 2007. As a result of these incidents, the operator 
implemented a replacement program and follow-up leak survey program. 
The operator continues its investigation and is working cooperatively 
with the manufacturer and regulators to determine the root causes and 
necessary mitigative actions.
    A second operator found two cases of degraded Drisco8000 pipe in 
Arizona in 2006 and reported them to the Arizona Corporation Commission 
Office of Pipeline Safety. This operator is now looking at other areas 
of their service territory for potential degraded pipe issues.
    The affected pipes in the cases reported thus far have diameters 
from one-half inch to two inches and have installation dates that range 
from 1978 to 1999. All reported cases have been on systems operating at 
or below 60 psig in desert regions in the southwestern United States. 
In those cases where print line codes are present on the pipe, the 
codes identify the pipe as being manufactured at a Watsonville, 
California, pipe plant which closed in 2000. The manufacturer has 
indicated they do not have any evidence that the condition developed as 
a result of the manufacturing process.
    According to the manufacturer, the degraded pipe is fairly easy to 
identify when the pipe is exposed. Affected pipe displays delaminating 
or peeling of the outer diameter or a friable or crumbling appearance 
on the inner diameter surfaces of the pipe. In addition, an audible 
cracking sound or noise may be detected when flexing, cutting, or 
squeezing the pipe.
    Once installed and in service, degraded pipe is not easy to 
identify. The manufacturer is not aware of a current testing protocol 
that consistently identifies the affected material while it is in 
service. Existing leak survey technologies have proven to be the most 
effective tool in locating and identifying degraded pipe.

[[Page 13388]]

    The areas of degradation are not always consistent in their 
characteristics. The degradation may not occur along the complete pipe 
length, but rather may start and stop within a relatively short section 
of pipe and then reoccur in another area further down the segment. In 
addition, the operator and manufacturer have observed instances of 
degradation on only one side of the pipe with the other side having no 
indication of degradation.
    The root cause of the degradation has not been determined. All 
reported cases have occurred in the southwestern United States where 
average ambient temperatures are very high, but this may or may not be 
a contributing factor. The manufacturer does not have evidence that the 
degraded pipe condition developed from or as a result of the 
manufacturing process. The manufacturer does not believe the issue to 
be associated with a particular resin lot. While a review of records 
has identified some changes in the resin formulation during the time 
period, the manufacturer does not believe that these changes 
contributed to the issue. The reporting operators have not identified 
any other construction or installation practices or conditions that are 
common to the known occurrences of degraded pipe.
    PHMSA has asked the manufacturer to describe the problem and its 
extent and has requested information related to manufacturing, 
construction practices, and testing recommendations. Those questions 
and responses, along with pictures of degraded pipe, are available on 
the docket associated with this advisory.
    The manufacturer is communicating with known customers, regulators, 
and industry groups as new information becomes available and the 
operators with known cases of degraded pipe continue to communicate 
with the appropriate regulatory authorities.

II. Advisory Bulletin (ADB-2012-03)

    To: Operators using Driscopipe[supreg] 8000 High Density 
Polyethylene Pipe.
    Subject: Potential for Material Degradation of Driscopipe[supreg] 
    Advisory: PHMSA advises all operators using Driscopipe[supreg] 8000 
of the potential for material degradation. PHMSA encourages operators 
to communicate and work with the manufacturer and their respective 
regulatory authorities to consider and implement any actions that are 
needed to address the issue as it relates to their systems.
    Operators using Drisco8000 pipe who have not already received 
communications from the manufacturer are encouraged to contact the 
manufacturer so they can receive future updates and determine whether 
their systems are susceptible to degradation. For additional 
information, contact Karen S. Lively, P.E, Technical Manager, 
Performance Pipe, a division of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, 
by phone at 972-599-7413 or email at [email protected]. Operators 
using Drisco8000 pipe are encouraged to inform the relevant regulatory 
authority and work together to determine what, if any, actions are 
needed to monitor and address the issue within their systems.
    Due to the uncertainty of the root cause of the material 
degradation, PHMSA cannot provide specific guidance on how best to 
address the issue. However, PHMSA urges all operators using Drisco8000 
pipe to consider the use of accelerated and more frequent leak surveys 
in those areas where degraded pipe is known or suspected to exist.
    All operators using Drisco8000 pipe are encouraged to work with all 
stakeholders to determine how to address discovery and repair within 
their systems, taking the most conservative approach and keeping 
pipeline integrity and public safety a priority.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. chapter 601 and 49 CFR 1.53.

    Issued in Washington, DC on February 29, 2012.
Jeffrey D. Wiese,
Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety.
[FR Doc. 2012-5424 Filed 3-5-12; 8:45 am]