On Sept. 9, 2010, a 30-in.-dia, Pacific Gas & Electric-owned natural-gas pipeline exploded (above), killing eight people in a residential neighborhood of San Bruno, Calif.

In response, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on April 8 issued a notice of proposed rule-making to tighten rules for the inspection and integrity management of gas pipelines. It would create a new category for inspections and maintenance of pipelines and add new mapping and inspection rules.

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Many design firms say the steep drop in oil-and-gas prices has hurt some petroleum markets. But firms in the pipeline inspection and environmental markets say there will be a new demand for work due to the proposed PHMSA regulations.

“The proposed PHMSA rule-making for gas transmission could have an immediate impact on pipeline operators as well as utilities,” says Gregory Corso, senior vice president of CHA Consulting (No. 59). He says there will be an immediate need for integrity management expertise and analytics, placing a major demand on the pipeline industry.

This market should grow quickly as pipeline operators and utilities are forced to map and inspect their lines. “We are facing a potential catastrophe every day that these lines are not checked for integrity and repairs are not made. That is why we invested in Willbros—to address this need,” says Chris Vincze, CEO of TRC Cos (No. 30).