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PG&E A Top Performer In Response Time To Gas Odor Calls Improvement Linked to Resurgence of Safety-First Culture, Recent Hiring

Release Date: September 20, 2012
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is among the nation's best utilities in responding quickly to customers who report smelling natural gas, part of its renewed companywide resolve to protect public safety.

Over the past two months, whenever a customer called PG&E with a gas odor concern, a gas service representative arrived at the scene in 23.6 minutes, on average, to check for a natural gas leak. PG&E has consistently reduced that average time to respond to gas leaks each month in 2012, from 30.7 minutes in January, and now ranks in the top quartile for gas utilities based upon American Gas Association (AGA) benchmarking information.

By another measure, PG&E responded within 30 minutes 85 percent of the time during August 2012, a considerable improvement over its 30-minutes-or-less performance in August 2011 of 58.4 percent.

"PG&E wants to promptly ease any anxiety our customers may have about a natural gas leak near them—and prove by our actions that we care deeply about their safety," said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E's executive vice president of Gas Operations. "Our quicker response on gas odor calls is one example of the positive change I see happening at PG&E. We're vocal about what needs improvement, adding resources where needed, and refusing to settle for anything less than excellent customer service."

The reduction in response time can be credited to hiring and prioritizing. Forty new gas-service representatives (GSRs), who deal directly with customer issues, are among the hundreds of workers PG&E is adding to its Gas Operations. Twenty GSRs are on board now with the remainder being added by year-end.

Also, through a program called "Make-Safe GSRs," certain gas workers are now more available to respond to customer calls that require immediate action, such as gas odors, carbon-monoxide issues and gas pipeline dig-ins.

Beyond gas odor response times, PG&E has improved how it proactively checks for and repairs leaks on its gas distribution system, the network of smaller-diameter pipes directly connected to customers' homes or businesses. PG&E performs a leak survey on every customer gas meter set-as well as all assets in its gas distribution system-at least once every five years. When PG&E performs its survey, it identifies any leaks and enters them into an electronic database for tracking, scheduling and repair. Any hazardous leaks are addressed immediately, and our personnel do not leave the site until the situation has been made safe.

Leak-survey workers now use tablet computers that make real-time data and pipeline maps instantly accessible. An advanced leak-detection instrument called Detecto Pak-Infrared (DP-IR) uses infrared technology to pinpoint methane gas without false alarms. This technology can both detect and quantify methane gas at the same time, which allows PG&E personnel to quickly classify any gas leak.

The company has set ambitious goals for decreasing the number of existing leaks in its system. Leaks are classified by severity, or grade. Beyond Grade 1 leaks, which are the most serious and are repaired immediately, PG&E is:

  • On track to repair all Grade 2 leaks found in 2011 by the end of October of this year. So far, PG&E has fixed 99.6 percent of these leaks.
  • Developing a plan to address how it manages Grade 3 leaks, which require no repairs, only monitoring.
  • On track to address all trace leaks at customer meters by the end of 2013. Trace leaks at gas meter sets typically do not pose a hazard for customers, and federal regulations do not require that they be repaired. So far, PG&E has repaired more than 55 percent of reported meter set leaks.

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 http://www.pge.com/about/newsroom/ and www.pgecurrents.com.

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