Monday, April 23, 2012

Natural gas safety

Natural gas is a colorless, odorless gas until we add mercaptan, a rotten egg odor to help detect leaks. If you smell natural gas or have a natural gas emergency, and leave immediately

Safety tips

Natural gas is safe when properly used. Follow these tips to prevent accidents:

Never use your oven or range as a space heater.

Have a qualified contractor inspect your furnace, vents, connections and chimneys for corrosion and blockages at least every other year.

Keep the area around your furnace and water heater clean and free from litter. Clean or replace air filters in your heating system annually.

Keep chimney flues and appliance vents clean and in good repair.

Vent gas space heaters to outside. Never sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene heater.

Make sure your range top is clean. Wash burners with water and mild detergent. Gas range flamed should be crisp, quiet and blue. Yellow flame indicates need for adjustment.

Make sure water heater air intakes, drain pipes, controls and flue are unobstructed.

Keep your gas meter free of debris, snow, ice and other obstructions at all times.

Natural Gas distribution network

Natural gas distribution networks are subject to rigorous inspection, maintenance and oversight within our company and by state and federal government. We maintain about 20,000 miles of natural gas distribution mains and 530 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines throughout Wisconsin. We also maintain the pipes that connect the mains to individual homes and businesses.

Typically, we are responsible for the natural gas facilities up to the outlet of your meter. Maintenance of additional buried natural gas pipes on your property is your responsibility. Examples include pipes to mobile homes, detached garages, workshops, pools, spas and lighting. According to federal rules, you are responsible to inspect buried piping on your property for leaks and corrosion. Any unsafe conditions must be repaired or removed.

Our inspection and safety activities

We survey for possible leaks on our distribution mains every year in populated communities and every other year in more rural areas. (Federal requirement for main surveys is once every five years).

All of the transmission pipelines are surveyed for leaks at least once per year. All of our 1 million customer service lines are inspected within every three years. (Federal requirement for service line surveys is once every five years). We have corrosion protection on all steel pipe in our system. (Federal requirement requires corrosion inspections only on pipes installed prior to 1971.)

Our corrosion protection is monitored continuously and tested every year. Wisconsin limits the operating pressure of a distribution system at 60 psig (pounds per square inch). (The Federal limit allows for distribution systems to operate at 125 psig.)

Along with inspecting the existing lines, we invest approximately $50 million every year in upgrading and proactively replacing mains and service lines throughout the area.

We work with local public safety agencies to provide emergency response training and safety information.

Each year, we sponsor contractor workshops to reinforce the proper safety guidelines for construction crews that work around natural gas and electric facilities.

For security reasons, we do not provide maps containing exact locations of pipelines. You can find the pipelines in your community by visiting the National Pipeline Mapping System. Every other year, we send out a communication to all customers within 1,000 feet of a transmission pipeline.

Pipeline damage

Most incidents involving natural gas pipelines involve a contractor or homeowner digging into buried distribution lines. To avoid such situations, be sure to call 811, a national hotline for underground facility location and marking — at least three days prior to digging. Using flags and paint, the free service marks any underground facilities that should be avoided when digging.

Dig safely

Dig by hand when excavating around natural gas piping. Contact an underground locating contractor for help locating natural gas piping on your property.

Contact a qualified plumbing or heating contractor, for help with natural gas piping inspection and repair.

Appliance connections

Make sure all appliance connectors are approved for the use expected, double wall and coated. Refer to the Consumer Product Safety Commission for information on approved connectors.

Corrugated stainless steel tubing

Corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) is a flexible tube sometimes used to supply natural gas in homes and businesses. Used since 1990, CSST may have been used for natural gas piping in your home if you added a new natural gas appliance such as a stove or furnace.

Danger: Improperly bonded and grounded CSST can result in natural gas leaks or fires in buildings struck by lightning. Learn about our CSST policy requirements (PDF 1688k). CSST is often coated in yellow or black. Photo

Do not confuse CSST with natural gas appliance flexible connectors. Flexible connectors typically attach directly to natural gas appliances from a floor or wall appliance shut-off valve. CSST is typically routed beneath, through or along side floor joists in the basement, inside interior wall cavities and on top of ceiling joists in attic spaces.

Inspect: If you have CSST installed at your home or business, contact a licensed electrician to verify proper bonding. If not, the electrician can install the proper bonding. If you’re not sure if you have CSST, contact the company that installed the natural gas piping in your home or business and ask for an inspection.

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