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Houses are blowing up all over North shore Massachusetts.

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Comments

  • steamer45steamer45 Posts: 3Member
    Perhaps another example of accepting the lowest bid? Whatever the cause, it is certainly a disaster! Here in Michigan, we have had a few similar incidences over the past few years, One recent event was in Auburn Hills, near Great Lakes Crossing. They eventually determined sometime in the past, a contractor had struck a 22" main with some sort of excavator and didn't tell anyone, sometime later it blew up an intersection. Approximately 2 years ago we did a home conversion from L.P. to natural gas where C.E. installed the commonly used yellow poly piping. This neighborhood involved about 100 homes surrounding a small lake, somewhat remote in that basically one route into the area. First aspect we noted was that the main piping looked to be 2" dia. and running approximately 1-2 miles. The individual house feeds are 1/2". My thinking is that's a lot of gas to get through 2" pipe! After replacing the water heater & copper piping and converting the furnace, we put this system into operation. The manometer readings were all over the dial, used both an analog gauge and digital. Went outside to the new meter (has a built-in regulator) removed the seal from the cap an attempted to adjust. Upon removal of the cap, found the threads rusted to such an extent that it was difficult to turn the nut. Lubed it and was finally able to turn it through its full range, however, that made no difference in the pressure, still moving all over. Contacted C.E. and their technician checked it out and agreed and replaced it. I had attempted to check the inlet pressure at the meter and, after loosening the 1/4" plug a bit, was afraid to remove it completely because it was whistling loudly and never did wobble in the thread, some much pressure behind it! Upon discussing that issue with their tech, she informed me they have 60 lbs. of pressure on that system at that point! I know poly pipe is very durable, but, come on, how is that for an accident waiting to happen!
    Another incident I witnessed first hand (didn't involve gas lines) was pressure testing a large "fly-ash" piping system at a C.E. power generating plant. As per C.E. specifications, we were to test the system to 85 lbs. air pressure, at 55 lbs. my partner began yelling at me to "turn off the air". He had discovered an 8" flex connector had bulged out of position and ruptured or split. Upon checking, this fitting was rated at 50 lbs. max. C.E. had supplied all material so how did that even get there in the first place.
    Point is, accidents happen but, most of the time, they are not accidents, they are people not doing their job!
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,802Member
    apparently the pressure sensors that controlled the gas regulation equipment were installed on a pipe line that was being disconnected and capped. so when that pipe was disconnected the sensors saw 0 pressure and overfed the piping system with high pressure gas
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Posts: 4,237Member
    To answer some of the questions and comments that have been made. First of all we have very old gas systems all over the northeast. The old low pressure (less that 1/2 pound pressure) cast iron mains and steel gas services to the homes are so old that they do not have corrosion protection on them. Many of those mains and services are being replaced with plastic mains and services but it will take a long time before all that is accomplished. Utilities in most areas have to replace 5 miles of pipe a year. Most of that work is done by outside contractors who have received training from the utility.

    The low pressure systems do not have regulators ahead of the gas meter as we would find on high pressure systems. A lot of the meters for low pressure are still located inside the dwellings and are slowly being moved outside. The only protection after that is regulators on each appliance. The gas valves used on gas heating do not regulate the pilot so they would be susceptible to high pressure blowing them out, at that point we hope they all drop out on safety. Also some older single seated gas valves would not be able to handle the excess pressure so they would probably stick open. This is why we went to redundant (dual seated) gas valves in 1979. The first valve in the redundant system is a direct acting solenoid valve which will remain closed if pressure in the valve exceeds 14" W.C. (1/2 pound) pressure.

    We have in recent years been seeing excess flow valves used on gas services. They are designed to stop the flow of gas if the service is damaged by backhoe operators or other pipe damaging events. They are sized based on the maximum expected flow of gas as determined by the gas meter, ex would be an AL 250 meter would allow only 250,000 cubic feet of gas before the excess flow valve would stop all flow.

    It has been my experience after working for a fairly large utility in Rhode Island that sometimes human error is involved. What do I mean? Someone either from the utility or a sub contractor is working on a high pressure line (could be upwards of 100 pounds pressure) there is a low pressure system nearby that high pressure system. A mistake is made and a valve or some other device is mistakenly turned on and introduces high pressure gas into the low pressure system. This would result in just what we saw in these communities I am told by a good source.

    I hope this helps everyone. Feel free to ask any questions that you would like answered I will do my best to answer them.
  • GBartGBart Posts: 753Member
    Good info Tim, from what I understand and have read there is still wooden tree trunk gas mains in the US, and perhaps other materials from the 1800's under there, I know many of our water mains are tree trunks and god knows what.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Posts: 4,237Member
    I used to have an example of a wooden gas main in my training center. It was on loan from a former gas company employee and he recently ask for it back for his own museum of old gas equipment.
  • Paul PolletsPaul Pollets Posts: 3,182Member
    I've heard gas lines in the affected area have homes that are being tested for 70psi. Is this possible? What about CSST?
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Posts: 4,237Member
    That is 70 PSI in the mains and services to the dwellings. That is what we call in the gas profession high pressure systems.

    Those systems will be reduced with a pounds to inches house regulator before being used on CSST at 1/2 pound 14" W.C.

    There are 2 and 5 pound systems used in some CSST applications per the manuals for those products. They would however still be reduced to 14" W.C. or less before being used by appliances.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Posts: 4,237Member
    This just came out:

    Columbia Gas to Replace Merrimack Valley Distribution System
    Columbia Gas of Massachusetts committed to a complete replacement of the natural gas distribution system in the Merrimack Valley after gas-fueled fires and explosions in Andover, Lawrence and North Andover on Thursday, Sept. 13. One person was killed, dozens were injured and thousands were displaced by the fires and explosions, The Boston Globe and other news outlets reported.
  • Paul PolletsPaul Pollets Posts: 3,182Member
    Tim McElwain---Viesmann's response to gas overpressure incident:

    "Viessmann recommends that homeowners or owners of potentially affected gas boilers contact Columbia Gas to determine if their building experienced gas pressure higher than 14 inches of water column. Because we don't know the level to which this pressure may have been exceeded due to this incident, Viessmann recommends that the complete boiler including the burner and controls be replaced and a qualified and licensed professional inspect and verify the integrity of the gas line, venting system and intake system for additional damage.

    Viessmann Technical Support professionals are available to answer any additional questions. The technical support number is 1-888-484-8643."
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 831Member
    edited September 2018
    With a recovery period of months sounds like they may intend to replace low pressure old corroded gas lines that may have been over stressed by high pressure gas...... think cracks.

    That or leadtime to receive a large quantity of new meters or meter parts (diaphragms and gaskets.) and rework and recertify old meters.

    Would be interesting if they are forced to go without meters till they can get new or rebuilt ones. And just estimate bills based on past usage.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Posts: 4,237Member
    There are plenty of meters available from the companies who make them and they would be brand new. Repairing or rebuilding meters would be counter productive in this incident.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Posts: 4,237Member
    I am sure Viesmann and many others would prefer replacement of any appliance which was subjected to excessive pressure. I am not sure what would be the result of excessive pressere on a negative pressure gas valve such as is use on Mod/Cons.
  • SailahSailah Posts: 791Member
    @Tim McElwain you seem like the ideal person to ask this question. Yesterday i wondered if my ultrasonic steam monitor could detect gas flow external to the pipe. Turned on my stove and could clearly make it out. Then took a shower same thing when water heater kicked on.

    But I'm not sure what the application is? I can't tell you flow just that gas is flowing through an orifice and creating ultrasonic signature.

    Maybe the industrial world, well heads, industrial gases would be a better fit?
    Peter Owens
    SteamIQ
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Posts: 4,237Member
    There are some applications such as your discussing used on large industrial boiler systems for safety purposes. They are cost preventative for use on residential and small commercial applications. The Excess Flow Valves are the answer and are already required when new piping systems are installed and also when older systems are relaid. Thanks for the information.
  • GWGW Posts: 3,406Member
    still wondering if the houses that blew were old heating systems (old gas valves). I wonder if we will ever hear the answer to that one.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    www.wilsonph.com
    [email protected]
  • SailahSailah Posts: 791Member
    Thanks @Tim McElwain

    Peter
    Peter Owens
    SteamIQ
  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,324Member
    GW said:

    still wondering if the houses that blew were old heating systems (old gas valves). I wonder if we will ever hear the answer to that one.

    That is the $50,000.00 question
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,802Member
    @GW
    Gary what I herd and posted on above was that they disconnected and capped a pipe that was cut out and being replaced with new pipe. Somebody forgot that the gas pressure sensors were mounted on the old pipe. When the pipe was disconnected the sensors reacted to 0 gas pressure and signaled the regulators to go open and as such over pressurized the system.

    you would think that they would have relief valve downstream of the regulators
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,988Member
    You can't fix stupid. And, stupid gets people hurt or killed.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • GBartGBart Posts: 753Member
    Like I said many times we live in a society where people get promoted based on their brown nosing skills not their ability or intelligence level. They are a danger to many and they also cause quality to drop.
  • GBartGBart Posts: 753Member
    Because of a simple incompetence that company now has to deal with 86,000 homes and businesses and replace 48 miles of pipe.

    Remember the 5 P's or 6 if you want to add one

    Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
  • GBartGBart Posts: 753Member
    There's also something very wrong with the story, let's say workers did disconnect the pressure sensors and the computer thought this main was at zero and more gas was needed.........wouldn't it also hopefully detect that it is pumping too much and there must be a leak?? What would happen if there was a large main break? Would it just keep flooding the lines with gas??
  • GBartGBart Posts: 753Member
    edited September 2018
    According to this article-- Columbia Gas has had seven violations totaling $100,000 since 2010, according to an email from Peter Lorenz, communications director for Massachusetts’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The violations included inadequate gas standards, improper pressure testing and failing to follow procedures and federal pipeline safety regulations.

    Maybe the fines aren't high enough to promote action?

    https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2018/09/17/501432.htm
  • NY_RobNY_Rob Posts: 1,369Member
    GBart said:

    There's also something very wrong with the story, let's say workers did disconnect the pressure sensors and the computer thought this main was at zero and more gas was needed.........wouldn't it also hopefully detect that it is pumping too much and there must be a leak?? What would happen if there was a large main break? Would it just keep flooding the lines with gas??

    Maybe the monitoring app on the i-pads were down that particular day?

    Funny, but not funny... we have a local utility here that uses surveillance cams via an app on their i-pads to monitor various pressure and panel displays at the town's main water plant! If the NVR (Hickvision) app goes down... they have no way to monitor the system remotely.
  • GBartGBart Posts: 753Member
    Only in America.........unreal
  • Sal SantamauraSal Santamaura Posts: 279Member
    edited September 2018
    GBart said:

    ...Maybe the fines aren't high enough to promote action?...

    No fines on corporations are high enough. Irrespective of the amount, people in charge simply ensure those costs are paid by customers and/or stockholders. Unless and until substantial prison time is imposed on corporate executives, there will continue to be inaction, deaths and injuries, in all industries.
  • GBartGBart Posts: 753Member
    I hear you, most of them and both parties should all be in jail.
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Posts: 2,622Member
    "dont fall in to that trap, just because the regulator is large does not mean it handles high pressure. higher pressure means higher volumes therefore smaller may work. what you same probably handled a large volume of gas. and i doubt "thousands of psi" its rare mains are above a hundred psi. transmission lines, yes more but thousands, doubtful "

    I do not disagree. I assumed that gas line was a transmission line. It was on a chain-linked fenced area with barbed wire on top. The area was on a small lot a little too small for a residential house, with nothing else there. One pipe coming out of the ground, the regulator screaming away and the other pipe going back into the ground. Maybe some valves. A sign on the fence with a name on it (not the local gas company), but I do not remember what.
  • ch4manch4man Posts: 134Member
    that sounds like a town border station. where your local gas company gets the gas from the wholesaler, probably thats whose name you saw and didnt recognize
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,802Member
    seems like pressure regulators downstream from the regulator should be installed to relieve excessive gas pressure.

    What can be said about still using WOODEN and cast iron pipe from the late 1800s in many locations?

    Why are these companies not forced to upgrade the infrastructure?

    Talk with gas company employees, they have gas leaking everywhere.

    No corporate responsibility.

    Fine or sue them to oblivion. Until you hurt the shareholders, nothing will happen

    One death was too many but

    they could have easily been looking at hundreds of deaths. It is a miracle their wasn't more
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,465Member
    Not trying to be an agitator here, and I certainly agree that the gas companies have a lot to answer for, particularly in the local distribution systems (there are other problems in the main transmission systems...). However -- based more on experience with electrical utilities and water companies rather than gas -- may I make one comment? It costs money to maintain and upgrade a distribution system. This money has to come from somewhere. The rates the utilities can charge are set by various State Public Utilities Commissions. At least around where I live and for the one water company I really know well (a big one), those rates are so low that the company can't hire the people it needs to do the maintenance, never mind train them or send them out to actually do something useful. If the company asks for higher rates so they can do the work, they get shot down for gouging the consumer. (To give you an idea of the manpower problem, that company I mentioned has 5 employees who are responsible for the maintenance and repair of 6 major dams on 4 reservoirs, plus a hydroelectric powerplant on one, plus some 60 miles of 36 inch and up diameter transmission mains. Oh yes, plus the maintenance and patrol and management of 30,000 acres of watershed land. 5 employees. And they can't get the money to hire more, not even temporary help).

    This is not the only reason this type of infrastructure is in miserable condition -- incompetent and overpaid management certainly factors in as well -- but it is one.

    Righteous wrath is all very well -- but as one of us (I forget which one) says in his signature line, you get what you pay for...
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • ch4manch4man Posts: 134Member
    so in Mass. who in government approves or denies utility rate case applications? are they elected officials? if so who elected them? when rate cases are denied there is little money to fund infrastructure improvements.
    or,,, have many rate cases been approved, but the big bad gas company decided to roll the rate into their own pocket??
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,465Member
    ch4man said:

    so in Mass. who in government approves or denies utility rate case applications? are they elected officials? if so who elected them? when rate cases are denied there is little money to fund infrastructure improvements.
    or,,, have many rate cases been approved, but the big bad gas company decided to roll the rate into their own pocket??

    The company I mentioned is in Connecticut. The rates are set by the DPUC, which is appointed by Governor who is elected by the mob consumers. The company in question hasn't been able to get a rate increase in 48 years. 48 years ago I paid about 2,000 for a good pickup truck (new). Try that now... And I sympathise with @Jim_R above -- I believe the underlying political rationale for spinning off service from delivery was "consumer choice" or something of the sort.

    End rant...
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • kevink1955kevink1955 Posts: 64Member
    Anyone remember the days when Long Island Lighting Co, (LILCO) would do gas boiler and appliance repairs free or for the cost of parts only. Sure glad the politicians saved us from them.
  • NY_RobNY_Rob Posts: 1,369Member

    Anyone remember the days when Long Island Lighting Co, (LILCO) would do gas boiler and appliance repairs free or for the cost of parts only. Sure glad the politicians saved us from them.

    That wasn't that long ago... maybe it stopped 8-10yrs back?

  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 831Member
    edited October 2018
    I remember driving thru Lawrence and next door Lowell years ago, lot of gas leak smells. Old mill towns, poor people. Andover was more affluent, owners and bosses lived there.

    Wood lines....... read of wood pile drivings used in swampy areas to support buildings. Supposedly as long as the wood stays wet underwater it doesn't deteriorate.

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,465Member
    "Supposedly as long as the wood stays wet underwater it doesn't deteriorate." Quite true. The joker in the deck is that "stays wet underwater". If it dries out for some reason, it will turn to mush in a remarkably short time -- days or weeks.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 831Member
    edited October 2018
    Stays wet is the key. Hear of 100 year old wood pipes for water and gas in Boston and NY city , but guessing land is not much above sea level. So can stay wet, if deep.

    With foundations heard was a problem in a drought, water table lowered.

    Guess with foundations they drive inexpensive wood down deep, then near surface where it could dry out maybe pricier concrete pilings.
  • GBartGBart Posts: 753Member

    Not trying to be an agitator here, and I certainly agree that the gas companies have a lot to answer for, particularly in the local distribution systems (there are other problems in the main transmission systems...). However -- based more on experience with electrical utilities and water companies rather than gas -- may I make one comment? It costs money to maintain and upgrade a distribution system. This money has to come from somewhere. The rates the utilities can charge are set by various State Public Utilities Commissions. At least around where I live and for the one water company I really know well (a big one), those rates are so low that the company can't hire the people it needs to do the maintenance, never mind train them or send them out to actually do something useful. If the company asks for higher rates so they can do the work, they get shot down for gouging the consumer. (To give you an idea of the manpower problem, that company I mentioned has 5 employees who are responsible for the maintenance and repair of 6 major dams on 4 reservoirs, plus a hydroelectric powerplant on one, plus some 60 miles of 36 inch and up diameter transmission mains. Oh yes, plus the maintenance and patrol and management of 30,000 acres of watershed land. 5 employees. And they can't get the money to hire more, not even temporary help).

    This is not the only reason this type of infrastructure is in miserable condition -- incompetent and overpaid management certainly factors in as well -- but it is one.

    Righteous wrath is all very well -- but as one of us (I forget which one) says in his signature line, you get what you pay for...

    I have quite a bit if experience in this, forget the term utility, these are no longer utilities that care about anything but the pay and bonuses in the board room and their stockholders, anything they can do to make the company appear profitable is what they do.

    They also, like Eversource have a floor of lawyers and a floor of accountants. their job is to OVERLOAD the state utility board with hundreds of boxes of useless paper to mind boggle then when they go for a rate case hearing, etc. they bamboozle them to get the case through and get the rate increase on you. The government isn't keeping them from investing in their infrastructure, they are, not one of these people is worth 120 million a year plus bonuses, wake up people, you are back to 1894 and the Robber Baron era. GE is a prime example, lived in Ct for decades suckered Mass for billions on a move after taking billions from Ct taxpayers and complained that Ct wasn't business friendly, now they are coming apart because this game only lasts so long, you can only pad your books and produce nothing or be accountable for so long, if your total focus is you bonus and stocks you will fail.

    These Interstate monopolies that control our gas and electric lines should be broken up and returned to one state just like our banks, they were all broken up for valid reasons long ago.
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