Underground Natural Gas Storage

Oil and gas pipeline technical advisory committee meetings will be held on December 13-15 in Washington, D.C.  The agenda covers updates on PHMSA pipeline safety programs and policy issues.  The oil and gas peer review committees, comprised of federal and state agency representatives, industry and the public, will discuss a variety of topics within that agenda, related to inspection and enforcement, updates regarding pending rulemakings and regulatory reform initiatives, underground gas storage, and more.  This is one of the first opportunities to hear from the Agency’s new leadership (especially recently appointed PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott and Deputy Administrator Drue Pearce).  The meetings should provide valuable insight to the priorities and policy initiatives under the Trump Administration affecting oil and gas critical energy infrastructure. 
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On October 19, 2017, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced an additional comment period on its December 19, 2016 interim final rule (IFR) which established minimum federal safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities.  PHMSA will accept comments until November 20, 2017.  This notice comes amidst the current administration’s executive orders on deregulation and a recent DOT request for comment on regulatory reform.

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On December 19, 2016, PHMSA issued an interim final rule (IFR) to establish for the first time  minimum federal safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities.  The rule was issued in response to the 2015 Aliso Canyon storage leak that lasted almost four months,  and a subsequent Congressional mandate to issue federal standards for underground storage.  Among other things, the IFR incorporated by reference (thereby making them mandatory) two American Petroleum Institute (API) Recommended Practices (RPs) regarding underground natural gas storage in salt caverns and reservoirs: (1) API RP 1170, “Design and Operation of Solution-mined Salt Caverns Used for Natural Gas Storage,” (July 2015); and (2) API RP 1171, “Functional Integrity of Natural Gas Storage in Depleted Hydrocarbon Reservoirs and Aquifer Reservoirs,” (Sept. 2015).  API finalized both of those RPs in response to the Aliso Canyon incident.

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Last December, PHMSA issued an interim final rule (IFR) to establish—for the first time ever—minimum federal standards for underground natural gas storage facilities.  The IFR imposes significant new requirements in a short timeframe for “downhole facilities,” including wells, wellbore tubing and casings at underground natural gas storage facilities.  Those rules became effective in late January and most recently, PHMSA finalized user fees to fund a training program for inspectors with oversight of underground storage facilities and other guidance materials.  While PHMSA moves forward in regulating these facilities, the State of Texas, INGAA, and AGA have challenged the rule and commenters have criticized the rule as rushed, poorly drafted, and unrealistic.
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