In a recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal watchdog agency, found that several federal regulatory agencies have been using outdated standards to assess permitting for liquified natural gas (LNG) liquefaction and export facilities.

The 60-page GAO report cites 17 outdated, replaced, or mistitled standards that are referenced by three government agencies: one standard used by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); eight standards used by the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA); and eight standards used by the U.S. Coast Guard. Essentially FERC, PHMSA, and the Coast Guard’s regulations for permitting LNG export facilities do not incorporate all current technical standards.

The report references multiple examples, one of which is that U.S. Coast Guard regulations reference a 1994 fire extinguisher standard that subsequently has been updated five times, thereby allowing the use of obsolete extinguisher types. FERC regulations reference a standard published in 1984 aimed at preventing earthquake damage to LNG facilities which has never been updated, but was deemed outdated by FERC officials.  PHMSA regulations also still reference fire safety standards published in 2001 but have been updated as recently as 2019.

As a result of its findings, the GAO recommended that government agencies conduct standard-specific reviews of their regulations every 3 to 5 years. Such reviews will help to ensure that necessary updates are made to government agency regulations and, therefore, that appropriate, current safety measures are in place in LNG facilities. Altogether, the GAO report made nine recommendations to federal agencies. The full report, as well as quick access to highlights and recommendations, can be found at: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-619?utm_campaign=usgao_email&utm_content=topic_naturalresources&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.

The government agencies largely agreed with the GAO recommendations and agreed to begin updating their rules regarding regulation updates. FERC and PHMSA will need to develop processes to perform this work, while the Coast Guard has processes in place but must review and/or update them. Agencies will review new/updated standards but are not required to incorporate them by reference. They will consider the new standards and determine whether they are compatible with the intended goal of the regulation.

At this point, it is difficult to tell how much this may impact operators of LNG facilities and even oil and gas pipelines.  Once agencies begin to perform these regulatory reviews, it will take time to implement those changes into the regulations.  Operators will then have to digest and implement changes to their own procedures and policies, if applicable.

Following is a table of the outdated standards that were cited in the government agency regulations. This table was recreated from the GAO report:

Comparison of the Dates of Technical Standards Incorporated by Reference in Regulations for LNG Facilities with the Standards’ Most Recent Versions, for FERC, PHMSA, and U.S. Coast Guard

Agency

Citation(s) in Code of Federal RegulationsTitle of Standard Cited in RegulationYear of Version Cited in Regulation

Year of Latest Version of Standard Issued

FERC

18 CFR §153.8(a)(6)National Bureau of Standards Information Report 842833, “Data Requirements for the Seismic Review of LNG Facilities.”1984

Not applicable a

PHMSA

49 CFR §§ 193.2013(b)(1), 193.2513(b)–(c), 193.2517, 193.2615(a)American Gas Association, “Purging Principles and Practices.”2001

2018 b

PHMSA

49 CFR §§ 193.2013(c)(1), 193.2101(b), 193.2321(b)American Petroleum Institute Standard 620, “Design and Construction of Large, Welded, Low-pressure Storage Tanks.”2012

2014

PHMSA

49 CFR §§ 193.2013(d)(1), 193.2067(b)American Society of Civil Engineers, Structural Engineering Institute, ASCE/SEI 7-05, “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures.”2005

2016

PHMSA

49 CFR §§ 193.2013(e)(1), 193.2321(a)American Society of Mechanical Engineers Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code, Section VIII, Division 1, “Rules for Construction of Pressure Vessels.”2007

2019

PHMSA

49 CFR §§ 193.2013(f)(2), 193.2057(a)Gas Technology Institute GTI-04/0032 LNGFIRE3, “A Thermal Radiation Model for LNG Fires.”2004

2004

PHMSA

49 CFR §§ 193.2013(f)(3), 193.2059(a)Gas Technology Institute GTI-04/0049, “LNG Vapor Dispersion Prediction with the DEGADIS 2.1: Dense Gas Dispersion Model for LNG Vapor Dispersion.”2004

Not applicable c

PHMSA

49 CFR §§ 193.2013(f)(1), 193.2059(a)Gas Research Institute GRI-96/0396.5, “Evaluation of Mitigation Methods for Accidental LNG Releases, Volume 5: Using FEM3A for LNG Accident Consequence Analyses.”1997

Not applicable c

PHMSA

49 CFR §§193.2013(f)(1), 193.2059(a)National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)-59A (2001), “Standard for the Production, Storage, and Handling of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).”2001

2019

PHMSA

49 CFR §§ 193.2013(g), 193.2051, 193.2057, 193.2059, 193.2101(a), 193.2301, 193.2303, 193.2401, 193.2521, 193.2639(a), 193.2801NFPA 59A (2006), “Standard for the Production, Storage, and Handling of LNG.”2006

2019

U.S. Coast Guard

49 CFR §§ 193.2013, 193.2101(b) 193.2321(b)NFPA 10, “Portable Fire Extinguishers.”2010

2018

U.S. Coast Guard

33 CFR §§ 127.003(b), 127.611ASTM International, ASTM F1121-87, “Standard Specification for International Shore Connections for Marine Fire Applications. “2010

2019

U.S. Coast Guard

33 CFR §§ 127.003(b), 127.603(a)NFPA 10, “Portland Fire Extinguishers.” d1994

2018

U.S. Coast Guard

33 CFR §§ 127.003(b), 127.313(b)NFPA 30, “Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code.”1993

2018

U.S. Coast Guard

33 CFR §§ 127.003(b), 127.405(b)NFPA 51B, “Fire Prevention in Use of Cutting and Welding Processes.”1994

2019

U.S. Coast Guard

33 CFR §§ 127.003(b), 127.101, 127.201(b)–(c), 127.405(b), 127.603(a)NFPA 59A, “Production, Storage, and Handling of LNG.”1994

2019

U.S. Coast Guard

33 CFR §§ 127.003(b), 127.107, 127.201(c)NFPA 70, “National Electrical Code.”1993

2020

U.S. Coast Guard

33 CFR §§ 127.003(b), 127.005NFPA 251, “Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials.1990

2006

Source: GAO analysis of regulations and standards. | GAO-20-619

a Since it was issued in 1984, this standard has not been updated by the issuing authority; however, FERC officials stated that the standard is outdated.

b As of 2018, the American Gas Association has retitled this standard, which is now titled “Purging Manual.”

C According to PHMSA officials, these two standards are outdated.

d As of May 2020, Coast Guard regulations at 33 C.F.R. 127.003(b) cited NFPA, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, 1994 Edition (Quincy, MA: Aug. 5, 1994; errata issued Nov. 2 and Dec. 31, 1994). We found that the Coast Guard’s reference to this standard contains a typo, as it refers to the standard as “Portland Fire Extinguishers” instead of “Portable Fire Extinguishers.”