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PG&E to Begin Rigorous Testing of Gas Transmission Pipelines Throughout Bay Area Hydrostatic Pressure and Assessment Tests Will Confirm Safe Operating Pressure

Release Date: April 19, 2011
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Building on its commitment to safe and reliable natural gas transmission pipeline operations, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) today announced the first in a series of hydrostatic pressure tests it will perform on a number of gas transmission pipeline segments throughout its system. The first pressure tests will take place in Mountain View and Antioch, Calif. in May.

As described in PG&E's March 15th filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, this work is part of the company's effort to pressure test or replace this year approximately 150 miles of pipeline segments in high consequence areas that have characteristics similar to the pipeline involved in the tragic accident in San Bruno on September 9, 2010.

"Our number one responsibility is the safety and reliability of our natural gas transmission pipeline system for our customers," said Kirk Johnson, vice president of gas engineering and operations for PG&E. "These tests will be conducted using safe and proven methods that are used throughout the nation. These tests will validate that the pipelines are operating safely."

PG&E will hold open houses in both Antioch and Mountain View prior to the tests to answer any questions customers may have about the testing. Customers in these areas will begin receiving letters this week with details on the open houses and information on the testing.

Hydrostatic pressure testing involves filling a section of pipe with water, pressurizing it to a much higher level than the pipe will ever operate with natural gas, then monitoring the pipe for eight hours. Any pipe sections that do not meet acceptable standards during the test will be replaced with new pipe that has already passed a pressure test. Following a successful test, the section of pipe is emptied of water, dried thoroughly and placed back in service. PG&E will provide updates on progress as hydrostatic testing work proceeds. This process will validate the safe operating pressure of the pipeline.

Click here for video of a hydrostatic pressure test.
Click here to download a broadcast quality b-roll of a hydrostatic pressure test.

Hydrostatic pressure tests require pipeline segments to be taken out of service for several days and take about two weeks to complete. PG&E will continue to provide gas to customers from an alternate source while work is in-progress and service will not be interrupted. Because PG&E safely empties the gas from the pipeline segments prior to hydrostatic testing, customers may smell gas in the area of the tests. PG&E encourages any resident who has questions or concerns about the smell of gas to call the company's 24-hour customer service line at 1-800-743-5000 or call 911 immediately.

Customers may also see:

• Temporary traffic safety cones and/or detour signs
• PG&E and PG&E-contracted field personnel
• Testing equipment, such as above-ground pipes and valves
• Machinery and support equipment, such as excavators and water tanks

PG&E also plans to conduct several pipeline assessment tests throughout the Bay Area. This work may require crews to excavate around the pipe, x-ray welds, test the strength of the pipe, or use a robotic camera to inspect the inside of the pipe.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation's cleanest energy to 15 million people in northern and central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/about.

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