Pipeline Safety:

Information on Gas Distribution System Operators Reporting Unaccounted for Gas

RCED-86-87BR: Published: Feb 25, 1986. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the number of municipal gas distribution systems reporting high levels of unaccounted-for gas and whether those high levels represented severe gas pipeline leaks or presented a safety problem; and (2) the Department of Transportation's (DOT) authority to regulate liquid commodities that are not currently being regulated, such as methanol and carbon dioxide.

GAO found several causes for unaccounted-for gas, including: (1) gas pipeline breaks and leaks; (2) broken and defective gas meters; (3) errors in meter reading and bookkeeping; (4) stolen gas; and (5) unmetered gas used in a city or operator facility. Federal and industry officials consider unaccounted-for gas in excess of 15 percent of gas purchases to be high and worthy of investigation. GAO found that, of the 1,491 gas distribution system operators: (1) the federal government is responsible for inspection of 166, with the states assuming inspection responsibilities for the rest; (2) 92, including 64 municipal operations, reported 15 percent or more unaccounted-for gas in 1984; (3) none of the 92 operators reporting a high percentage of unaccounted-for gas reported any accidents for 1984; (5) 369, including 243 municipal operations, reported between 5 and 15 percent of unaccounted-for gas; and (6) operators reported a total of 109 accidents involving either death, injury, or property damage in 1984. GAO also found that DOT has the authority to regulate any liquid deemed hazardous when transported by pipeline, such as petroleum and petroleum products, anhydrous ammonia, methanol, and carbon dioxide.

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