The US National Transportation Safety Board has issued another press release on the the San Bruno failure. It includes seven recommendations, most of them urgent. I’ll highlight a couple:
To PG&E (the pipeline owner): “Aggressively and diligently search for all as-built drawings, alignment sheets, and specifications, and all design, construction, inspection, testing, maintenance, and other related records, including those records in locations controlled by personnel or firms other than PG&E, relating to pipeline system components, such as pipe segments, valves, fittings, and weld seams for (certain PG&E pipelines) that have not had a maximum allowable operating pressure established through prior hydrostatic testing. These records should be traceable, verifiable, and complete.”
To the California Public Utilities Commission: “… ensure, through adequate oversight, that PG&E has aggressively and diligently searched documents and records ...”
These recommendations appear to have been made because PG&E believed that the pipe which failed was seamless but it in fact very clearly contained seam welds, some of which seemed to be of dubious quality. So PG&E’s record keeping was not up to scratch.
Concurrently, I’ve been reviewing a committee draft of the forthcoming new edition of AS 2885.3. The section on records management caught my eye, partly because it is very comprehensive and partly in the light of the NTSB recommendations above. (You can get a copy of the public comment draft here for anyone interested; see Section 10. Note that public comment closed a long time ago.)
One can perhaps be just a tiny bit forgiving of PG&E not having good records of a pipeline built in 1956 since practices have changed markedly since then. Nevertheless it’s a salutary illustration for anyone who feels that documentation, change management, etc are onerous.