Despite the general acceptance of plastic piping as a safe and economical alternative to piping made of steel or other materials, the National Transportation Safety Board notes that a number of pipeline accidents it has investigated have involved plastic piping that cracked in a brittle-like manner. This special investigation report concludes that the procedure used in the United States to rate the strength of plastic pipe may have overrated the strength and resistance to brittle-like cracking of much of the plastic pipe manufactured and used for gas service from the 1960s through the early 1980s. As a result, much of this piping may be susceptible to premature brittle-like failures when subjected to stress intensification, and these failures represent a potential public safety hazard.
The safety issues discussed in this report are the vulnerability of plastic piping to premature failures due to brittle-like cracking; the adequacy of available guidance relating to the installation and protection of plastic piping connections to steel mains; and performance monitoring of plastic pipeline systems as a way of detecting unacceptable performance in piping systems.
As a result of this special investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations to the Research and Special Programs Administration, the Gas Research Institute, the Plastics Pipe Institute, the Gas Piping Technology Committee, the American Society for Testing and Materials, the American Gas Association, MidAmerican Energy Corporation, Continental Industries, Inc., Dresser Industries, Inc., Inner-Tite Corporation, and Mueller Company.
As a result of this special investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:
To the Research and Special Programs Administration:
Notify pipeline system operators who have installed polyethylene gas piping extruded by Century Utility Products, Inc., from Union Carbide Corporation DHDA 2077 Tan resin of the piping's poor brittle-crack resistance. Require these operators to develop a plan to closely monitor the performance of this piping and to identify and replace, in a timely manner, any of the piping that indicates poor performance based on such evaluation factors as installation, operating, and environmental conditions; piping failure characteristics; and leak history. (P-98-1)
Determine the extent of the susceptibility to premature brittle-like cracking of older plastic piping (beyond that piping marketed by Century Utility Products, Inc.) that remains in use for gas service nationwide. Inform gas system operators of the findings and require them to closely monitor the performance of the older plastic piping and to identify and replace, in a timely manner, any of the piping that indicates poor performance based on such evaluation factors as installation, operating, and environmental conditions; piping failure characteristics; and leak history. (P-98-2)
Immediately notify those States and territories with gas pipeline safety programs of the susceptibility to premature brittle-like cracking of much of the plastic piping manufactured from the 1960s through the early 1980s and of the actions that the Research and Special Programs Administration will require of gas system operators to monitor and replace piping that indicates unacceptable performance. (P-98-3)
In cooperation with the manufacturers of products used in the transportation of gases or liquids regulated by the Office of Pipeline Safety, develop a mechanism by which the Office of Pipeline Safety will receive copies of all safetyrelated notices, bulletins, and other communications regarding any defect, unintended deviation from design specification, or failure to meet expected performance of any piping or piping product that is now in use or that may be expected to be in use for the transport of hazardous materials. (P-98-4)
Revise the Guidance Manual for Operators of Small Natural Gas Systems to include more complete guidance for the proper installation of plastic service pipe connections to steel mains. The guidance should address pipe bending limits and should emphasize that a protective sleeve, in order to be effective, must be of the proper length and inner diameter for the particular connection and must be positioned properly. (P-98-5)
To the Gas Research Institute:
Publish the codes used to identify plastic piping products in previous Gas Research Institute studies to make the information contained in these studies more useful to pipeline system operators. (P-98-6)
To the Plastics Pipe Institute:
Advise your members to notify pipeline system operators if any of their piping products, or materials used in the manufacture of piping products, currently in service for natural gas or other hazardous materials indicate poor resistance to brittle-like failure. (P-98-7)
Advise your plastic pipe manufacturing members to develop and publish recommendations for limiting shear and bending forces at plastic service pipe connections to steel mains. (P-98-8)
Advise your plastic pipe manufacturing members to revise their pipeline bend radius recommendations as necessary to take into account the effects of residual coil bends in plastic piping. (P-98-9)
To the Gas Piping Technology Committee:
Revise the Guide for Gas Transmission and Distribution Piping Systems to include complete guidance for the proper installation of plastic service pipe connections to steel mains. The guidance should emphasize the need to limit pipe bending and should include a discussion of the proper design and positioning of a protective sleeve to limit stress at the connection. (P-98-10)
To the American Society for Testing and Materials:
Revise ASTM D2774 to emphasize that a protective sleeve, in order to be effective, must be of the proper length and inner diameter for the particular connection and must be positioned properly. (P-98-11)
Develop and publish standard criteria for the design of protective sleeves to limit stress intensification at plastic pipeline connections. (P-98-12)
To the American Gas Association:
Revise your Plastic Pipe Manual for Gas Service and your Gas Engineering and Operating Practices series to provide complete and unambiguous guidance for limiting stress at plastic pipe service connections to steel mains. (P-98-13)
To MidAmerican Energy Corporation:
Modify your gas construction standards to require (1) firm compacted support under plastic service connections to steel mains, and (2) the proper design and positioning of protective sleeves at these connections. (P-98-14)
As a basis for the timely replacement of your plastic piping systems that indicate unacceptable performance, review your existing plastic piping surveillance and analysis program and make the changes necessary to ensure that the program is based on sufficiently precise factors such as piping manufacturer, installation date, pipe diameter, geographical location, and conditions and locations of failures. (P-98-15)
To Continental Industries, Inc.:
Provide a means to ensure that the use of your protective sleeves with your tapping tees at plastic pipe connections to steel mains does not compromise corrosion protection for the connection. (P-98-16)
To Continental Industries, Inc. (P-98-17):
To Dresser Industries, Inc. (P-98-18):
To Inner-Tite Corporation (P-98-19):
To Mueller Company (P-98-20):
Develop and publish recommendations and instructions for limiting shear and bending forces at locations where your steel tapping tees are used to connect plastic service pipe to steel mains.