Enstar Ahead of Schedule in Transmission Line Inspections

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The recent gas line explosion in California has consumers across the nation wondering about the safety of their own neighborhood transmission lines. Enstar Natural Gas Company serves 130,000 customers in the Mat-Su Valley, Anchorage and down the Kenai Peninsula to Anchor Point. John Sims is an Enstar spokesman. He says Enstar’s system, which started being built in the 1960s, is more contemporary than others in cities in the Lower 48.

Sims says better steel slows corrosion, which he says is the most important factor in pipeline safety. He says the Enstar system also operates at lower pressure than systems in major cities such as San Francisco.

Sims says before the accident in California, the federal government mandated integrity inspections for all transmission lines be completed by 2012. He says Enstar is ahead of schedule and has 90 percent of their lines pigged, or inspected by sending a sensor through the line that gathers information about wall thickness, an indication of whether or not corrosion is a problem.

He says no significant problems have been discovered.

Lois Epstein is an engineer and board member of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a non-profit watch dog group that looks at federal regulations and where they need to be strengthened. She says in reviewing Enstar’s records, things look good.

Epstein says Alaska is unique in that there are no state inspectors here. Enstar is covered by federal regulations and inspectors.

She says there are only about 100 federal inspectors in the country and 300 state inspectors.

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