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Dominion Energy’s natural gas operations have a strong record of extremely reliable service. In a typical year, they experience no service interruptions at a transmission level and very rare interruptions at a distribution level. We respond to all reported gas emergencies, and are on site within 60 minutes 98 percent of the time.
Pipeline Maintenance and Replacement
To maintain that level of performance — and even improve it — we have put several programs in place that focus on both pipeline maintenance and pipeline replacement. For a discussion of those programs, see the Natural Gas Safety and Integrity section of this report.
We have spent more than $1.6 billion so far to replace more than 1,730 miles of transmission and distribution pipe in Ohio, where Dominion Energy Ohio serves approximately 1.3 million customers. In 2018, the company invested $204 million and replaced approximately 191 miles of aged bare steel, cast iron, wrought iron and copper pipe in our Ohio and West Virginia system.
On March 1, 2016, Dominion Energy West Virginia (DEWV) launched its Pipeline Replacement and Expansion Program (PREP). Through this innovative program, DEWV plans to replace more than 1,000 miles of the company’s 3,146-mile distribution pipeline system over a 50-year period. DEWV will upgrade bare-steel, cast-iron, wrought-iron and copper pipelines to either effectively coated steel or plastic pipe. While existing lines are safe, these enhancements will ensure that the company continues to meet applicable regulations. The new pipe will be more durable and resistant to corrosion, which will enable DEWV to ensure safe, reliable service for years to come.
In Utah and Wyoming, all cast iron and bare steel pipe has been replaced. We have spent more than $.5 billion in our Utah service territory, where we serve more than 1 million customers; in 2018, our Western-state operations in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho spent more than $96 million to replace aging natural gas infrastructure.
Though the early impetus for these programs was service reliability and pipeline safety, by addressing the less robust components of our distribution infrastructure, Dominion Energy is reducing methane emissions at the same time. These initiatives support our commitments to reduce methane emission from operations, as more fully described in the Climate Change Mitigation section of this report.
Some parts of the U.S. are reaping the benefits of the natural gas revolution, including ample supply and low prices. Others face severe supply constraints because of inadequate infrastructure. The pipelines currently serving the mid-Atlantic and some parts of the Southeast are unable to keep up with demand. For that reason, natural gas prices in Virginia are among the highest in the nation, and service is being cut off on the coldest winter days. Tellingly, new industry is being turned away because the pipeline network is too constrained. To help remedy this imbalance we are working to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will deliver new supplies of natural gas that are critically needed to achieve a low-carbon future.
Automation and Controls
To maintain the safety and reliability of its gas delivery operations, the company inspects and assesses its transmission pipelines in numerous ways — including patrols and around-the-clock monitoring from Gas Control command centers. In addition to regular aerial observation and foot patrols, pipelines also are inspected from the inside with in-line tools that are often called “smart pigs.” These devices use computerized sensors capable of detecting and reporting anomalies such as dents and corrosion, enabling us to make appropriate repairs to ensure the integrity of the pipe. They are introduced at specialized launch sites, and move through the pipeline to downstream receiving locations. The data collected by these sensors is then analyzed to determine whether pipeline segments need replacement or repair. Dominion Energy uses smart pigs on more than half of its transmission and storage system — well beyond regulatory requirements.
Dominion Energy continuously monitors the flow of gas using remote sensors, which are placed along the entire length of a pipeline. Remote-controlled safety shutoff valves allow Gas Control operators to stop the flow of gas immediately and isolate individual sections of pipeline if necessary.
With the need for continued reliability in one of the fastest-growing states in the country, Dominion Energy Utah analyzed options the company could pursue to ensure supply dependability and avoid disruptions. We concluded that the best available long-term solution would be construction of a liquefied natural gas facility. Dominion Energy is working with regulators to obtain approval for this option.