Are we safe?

This map shows the network of major U.S. natural gas pipelines in 2009

Natural gas mains made of steel, like the one that apparently failed in Thursday’s deadly California explosion, are considered especially susceptible to corrosion and leaking, leading regulators in some states to consider replacing them.

In general, gas pipelines are safer than ever: “Distribution incidents” like leaks, fires and explosions have declined sharply since 1970, when many utilities began switching over to plastic pipes, which are less vulnerable to corrosion, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Deaths in such incidents have declined in turn, from 246 in the 1970s to 120 in the 2000s.

But while the majority of natural gas pipes are plastic, about 60 percent of the nation’s 475,000 miles of larger gas mains — those wider than 16 inches in diameter — are steel, according to the Natural Gas Supply Association. That’s because steel pipes can better withstand the pressurization used to move gas efficiently through large pipes.  That strength doesn’t necessarily translate to safety — federal figures show that steel pipes are implicated in more natural gas incidents than those made of plastic materials.

If you own a gas grill, you probably already deal with the main vulnerabilities of steel pipes. Steel corrodes, and because it’s rigid, it can crack under stress. As older steel gas mains have started giving way, explosions — some of them deadly — have led regulators in several states to reconsider whether they’re the best option.

Shouldn’t we be investing in safer infrastructure, improving the lives and safety of Americans?


Filed under Infrastructure

11 responses to “Are we safe?

  1. Freebird1971

    Grilling with gas is UnAmerican!

  2. Just last week a man was killed in Andover from gas accumulating and igniting in his garage.

    I remember years ago (probably close to 30) a house in our neighborhood exploded from a gas leak. We lived in North Riverside and the house was close to Woodland Elementary so probably about 1600 or 1700 Payne or Salina (one of those streets between the two rivers). I remember how concerned our entire neighborhood was, but I don’t actually remember that any work was done by the gas companies or how our anxiety was put to rest.

  3. Zippy

    Heh, do you not remember just a few years back, when El Dorado was subject to spontaneous explosions?

    The point is NOT that natural gas is inherently dangerous, but rather than sloppy (and these days, increasingly sloppy, greedy providers, thanks to that wonderful deregulation conservatives advocate) can make it so.

    But I suppose water that you can <a href="; set on fire is awesome!

  4. Zippy

    P.S. Bird–most people I know grill with propane instead, and simply use a smoker! 😉

  5. Freebird1971

    Charcoal is the only way to go. So I guess we are both old.

  6. Add us to the list of old folks who still use charcaol. 😉

    • prairie pond

      I’m a charcoal griller too. But I use real wood for smoking. Split logs, not those candy assed chips! I cant get a hot enough fire to burn long enough for smoking if I use charcoal only.

      I once hauled a whole pickup load of pecan, oak, and hickory from Houston because I cant find good smoking wood out here in western Kansas. The hardest wood we have is Ash, and it gives a bitter taste. Sometimes folks will have a few branches of fruit wood, which is great, but I need LOTS of wood when I fire up the offset smoker!