The Massachusetts Dept. of Public Utilities hired Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc. on Nov. 1 to analyze the state's entire gas distribution system. The Texas-based firm will also look into the operational and maintenance functions of natural gas companies operating in Massachusetts.
The hire comes about six weeks after the state announced that it would hire an independent firm to examine the natural gas distribution system in the wake of a series of spectacular gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley on Sept. 13.
Specializing in risk and integrity management of assets and overall operational efficiencies, Dynamic Risk has performed pipeline risk and integrity management work for clients around the world. Dynamic Risk will begin its work in Massachusetts as soon as its contract with Massachusetts is finalized "in the coming days," according to a press release. The effort is expected to take between 90 and 120 days.
“Dynamic Risk is very pleased to have been awarded this very important project to assess gas pipeline safety,” Patrick Vieth, Dynamic Risk’s executive vice president said in a statement. “The Independent Review Panel that has been assembled, along with the expertise across our organization, is well suited to meet the needs of all stakeholders. We look forward to working with the Dept. of Public Utilities for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Angela O’Connor, the chair of the Dept. of Public Utilities chair, has directed gas distribution companies operating in Massachusetts to fund the statewide review. She says she has the authority to do so after Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency the day after the explosions killed one man, injured several others, damaged hundreds of buildings and left thousands without gas service.
“The Dept. of Public Utilities’ commitment to the safety of residents and the commonwealth’s energy infrastructure will be furthered by Dynamic Risk’s examination,” O’Connor said in a statement. “The department looks forward to reviewing the assessment and any recommendations contained within the evaluation of the physical condition and safety of the distribution system, as well as the operational and maintenance functions of natural gas companies.”
Baker said in the statement that “This comprehensive safety review will further the steps taken by our Administration to ensure the safety of communities, and the integrity of the Commonwealth’s energy infrastructure. Our Administration looks forward to the Independent Evaluator’s findings as they conduct a statewide review of the natural gas distribution system.”
After completing its examination, Dynamic Risk will submit a report with its recommendations to the state. The Dept. of Public Utilities says the work complements, “but will not duplicate, the investigation of the National Transportation Safety Board.” An initial NTSB report said the explosions were caused by an over-pressurized gas line that was the result of a erroneously-placed sensor on the pipeline. NTSB says its full report could take as long as two years.
Columbia Gas completed the replacement of nearly 45 miles of damaged pipeline three weeks early on Oct. 30 but says it will take until Dec. 16 to restore service back to all customers.